DfT confirms £8.3bn local roads plan with new duties for councils

Dominic Browne

Transport secretary Mark Harper has confirmed fresh details around the £8.3bn 11-year roads investment plan, set out in the wake of cuts to HS2, including new duties for councils.

Under the Network North plan, English local highway authorities will receive an extra £150m this financial year, followed by a further £150m for 2024/2025, with the rest of the funding allocated through to 2034.

Additional funding up to 2025 has been allocated based on the highways maintenance block formula. The year-by-year profile beyond 2024/2025 has not yet been finalised, 'but the funding is expected to increase over time', the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

The DfT said in total the new cash will represent an increase 'of around two-thirds in its support for local roads'. This appears to be based on adding the £8.3bn to current spending levels of roughly £1bn a year - if that current level was frozen over the next 11 years.

In return for the extra cash, local authorities will have a new duty to publish road resurfacing plans on their websites by March 2024 and report on progress thereafter on a quarterly basis. Details will be set out in grant agreement letters to local authorities.

The funding is divided as follows:

  • £3.3bn for local authorities in the North West, North East and Yorkshire & Humber;
  • £2.2bn for local authorities in the West Midlands and East Midlands;
  • £2.8bn for local authorities in the East of England, South East, South West and, for the first time in eight years, London.

The Barnett formula will continue to apply in the usual way for all three devolved administrations.

The DfT said that 15% of the £8.3bn has not been allocated to allow final allocations to reflect:

  • the ending of local highways PFIs within the 11-year funding period
  • future updates to the funding formula data and approach
  • a possible future incentivisation element to encourage innovation and best practice.

The department said that it 'may also look to introduce an enhanced incentive element from 2025 to 2026 onwards to ensure that best practice in sustainable highways asset management is adhered to'.

The announcement comes on top of the money the chancellor announced at the Budget in March, which included a £200m boost for roads as part of a £5.5bn funding package through to 2024/25.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: 'Well-maintained road surfaces could save drivers up to £440 each in expensive vehicle repairs [based on the maximum cost associated with pothole damage], helping motorists keep more of the cash in their pocket.

'This unprecedented £8.3bn investment will pave the road for better and safer journeys for millions of people across the country and put an end to the blight of nuisance potholes.'

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: 'Today’s biggest ever funding uplift for local road improvements is a victory for all road users.'

So far this year, the AA has attended more than 450,000 pothole-related breakdowns. President of the AA, Edmund King, said the investment could make 'a considerable difference'.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: 'We hope local authorities will use the money in the most effective way possible by resurfacing the very worst roads, keeping those in reasonable condition in better states for longer through surface dressing, and filling potholes as permanently as possible wherever necessary.'

Rick Green, chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, said: 'This long-term investment will also help give the asphalt supply chain confidence to further invest in plant upgrades, materials innovation and technical advancements to support the development and delivery of lower carbon roads, in line with the Government’s net zero ambitions.'

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