DfT calls on Treasury to bring Network North cash forward

11/04/2024
Chris Ames

The Department for Transport (DfT) is in negotiations with the Treasury over bringing forward a promised £8bn of ‘additional’ cash over the next nine years, a top official has revealed.

Speaking at the Road Surface Treatments Association’s annual conference, Tim Rowland-Deverell, head of local highways strategy and environment at the DfT, said that Whitehall was still discussing the profile of the redirected HS2 money. 

The total £8.3bn Network North local roads package has an 11-year profile, with only £300m for the first two years having been allocated.

‘If we were going to go by the letter of HS2 funding, that means all of our funding comes towards the back end of the decade. We don’t think that’s a particularly helpful way of doing things. We’ve had a conversation with the Treasury over what that looks like,’ he said.

Mr Rowland-Deverell also addressed the issue of ‘baseline’ capital funding for authorities beyond 2025 - acknowledging that uncertainty is preventing local authorities planning maintenance.

The DfT has also not announced core capital funding for local highway authorities beyond the current financial year.

He asked: ‘All of this Network North money is additional, but additional to what? Our number one task is going to be to secure baseline funding for the years ahead.

'And part of my meeting you today is that the industry continues to talk to Treasury, continues to say how important it is that that funding is substantial, that it is predictable, and that we are moving towards a longer-term position so that everyone can understand what they can invest in over the next decade.’

Local authority sources have pointed out that there is no guarantee additional government funding will result in additional council spending on highway maintenance as many will simply choose to withhold equivalent contributions from their own funds.

Under the funding package, councils were tasked with publishing plans for how the Network North cash would be spent, which the majority have now done. 

Speaking to Highways, Mr Rowland-Deverell admitted that the DfT were unlikely to interrogate the nature of the plans and what percentage of the works were simply being brought forward under current asset management processes.

He said: ‘To be honest, there is a degree of trust.’

While councils benefitted from a share of the £150m Network North cash this year, the Government dropped the £200m Pothole Fund that has been in place for 2023-24 - leaving them potentially worse off as they go into the year ahead.

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