Exclusive: One in five authorities lose highways cash due to poor performance

13/05/2019
Dom Browne

Of the eligible highway authorities, almost one in five have lost half of their share of £151m this year from the Department for Transport's (DfT) Incentive Fund due to poor performance.

The Incentive Fund uses a self-assessment process to rank highway authorities across three bandings based on key elements of the service such as good asset management.

 

2019-2020 results:

Band 1 - 0

Band 2 - 21

Band 3 - 94

After its launch in 2015-16, money has been slowly cut from councils in the lower bands.

Those in Band 1 would receive only 10% of their cash this year, while those in Band 2 only receive half of their share.

Transport Network can reveal that there are no authorities in Band 1; however there are 21 in Band 2.

There are 94 in Band 3, which will receive all their cash allocation.

Despite a request from Highways, the DfT would not provide authorities' individual scores but said these would be released 'in due course'.

The percentages for Bands 1 and 2 will further decrease in 2020/21, with authorities in Band 2 receiving 30% of their share of funding while those in Band 1 receive no funding at all.

Many in the sector feel the lack of auditing of self-assessment returns has opened the door to some authorities being overly lenient on their performance and massaging results. 

On top of this, councils with a devolution deal are automatically awarded Band 3 status. This includes councils in the North East Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Cornwall unitary council.

The head of local highway maintenance at the DfT, Steve Berry, has announced that a review and audit group will be set up to look into the self-assessment process and see how it can be developed after 202021.

Sources in the sector pointed out it is important to ensure, highways has transparency of performance in order to make its case to the Treasury and so as to provide further support to those councils that are underperforming.   

There were 153 local authorities at the time of this year's assessment - Dorset is now split into two unitary authorities and Northamptonshire could go the same way.

Highway authorities in London and those with PFIs are not included in the process.

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