Local government funding crisis could put highways back a decade

09/08/2018
Dominic Browne

County councils have raised alarm bells as a string of top tier authorities are in the throes of financial meltdown, raising the prospect of cuts to highways that could 'put us back 10 years' in the words of one insider.

Counties have warned that a basic ‘core offer’ of local services could be become the norm without additional resources, with highways in the firing line for the most drastic cuts in troubled councils such as Northamptonshire, East Sussex and Lancashire. 

East Sussex County Council has said it plans to strip back services to the 'legal minimum' amid calls for talks with central government, after it claimed it had saved £129m since 2010.

A recent audit by Grant Thornton said Lancashire County Councils is at a 'tipping point'.

Tony Ciaburro, former corporate director for place commissioning at Northamptonshire CC, told Highways that roads services could 'go back to the bad old days' of 10 years ago with a reactive maintenance approach taken up in cash-strapped councils like Northants. This would mean progress on asset management across the sector in recent years would be thrown out of the window in some authorities, leading to more deterioration and greater costs in the long-term.

This would send highways services into a funding spiral as they would receive less funding through the Department for Transport's Incentive Fund under the self-assessment process as a result.

Mr Ciaburro suggested that regional taskforces could help to make smarter use of the resources available and provide peer-review like support to aid failing neighbours.

He also asked whether England could still afford for every highway authority to have its own service capacity or whether regional contractual arrangements were needed, suggesting that more money could be saved on procurement and back office elements.

'There has been work on collaboration and contract frameworks but it always stops short of one point, no one wants to sacrifice authority over their locality.'

The County Councils Network (CCN) - representing England’s largest authorities - said councils faced a funding shortfall of £3.2bn over the next two years, £1.8bn of which is due to projected demand and future inflationary pressures.

A basic ‘core offer’ of services could be become the norm - meaning highways services could be cut back to little more than reactive maintenance according to some - CCN  said.

The group called on the Treasury to 'better understand the pressures we are under' and support local government with short-term resources for the next financial year, ahead of a longer-term deal in the Spending Review.

A questionnaire of council leaders found that just one third (33%) were confident they will be able to deliver a balanced budget in 2020/21 without an extra cash injection, with 66% are ‘not confident’ or ‘neutral’.

Cllr Paul Carter, CCN Chairman and leader of Kent County Council: 'High performing authorities such as East Sussex won’t be the last to set out a "core offer"' providing little more than statutory services, without additional help.

'It is clear that unless Government finds a long-term solution to council funding and a fairer distribution of resources between authorities, other well managed county councils could find themselves unable to balance the books.'

Update: Northamptonshire has aggreed core spending priorities, which include highways. 

 

Highways jobs

Team Leader NRSWA & Traffic Management

Bedford Borough Council
£37,107 - £41,846 per annum
To Manage a team carrying out the Councils duties under the Traffic Management Act and the New Roads and Street Works Act. Bedfordshire
Recuriter: Bedford Borough Council

Strategic Director - Regeneration & Environment

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Competitive Salary
As the Strategic Director of Regeneration & Environment, you’ll be part of the strategic corporate leadership team Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Senior/Principal Highway Network Management Officer

Bristol City Council
£30,746 - £37,107
These are exciting times in Bristol, as there is considerable investment in its transport and highway infrastructure in recent years City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Site Inspectors

Oxfordshire County Council
£29,909- £36,153
You will provide specialist technical support to some of the most imaginative transport and town planning challenges imaginable. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Local Transport Policy Lead

Oxfordshire County Council
£37,107 - £43,757
Define your true potential with Oxfordshire County Council Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Planning Obligations Team Member

Oxfordshire County Council
£21,074 - £29,055
You will witness first-hand the exciting developments currently taking place in Oxfordshire Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Transport Development Control Team Leader

Oxfordshire County Council
£48,551 - £55,374
We need visionary Team Leaders to help our people meet their targets. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Head of Property, Planning and Public Protection

Powys County Council
Head of Service 2 £66,854 - £73,540 per annum
Powys County Council, open and enterprising Llandrindod Wells, Powys
Recuriter: Powys County Council

Senior Engineer

Wirral Borough Council
£30,756 to £33,136
No holding back. No excuses. Just change Wirral. Bring it on. Wirral, Merseyside
Recuriter: Wirral Borough Council

Chief Executive

Epping Forest District Council
up to £120k
A role with roots in our community. Epping, Essex
Recuriter: Epping Forest District Council

Housing Renewal Technical Officer

Torridge District Council
£21,074 — £26,470 per annum
Advice to private sector tenants, landlords, & owner-occupiers about housing disrepair & energy issues. Bideford, Devon
Recuriter: Torridge District Council

Principal Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£34,106 - £37,107 - PO6/SCP 38
To provide project leadership on the design, implementation and project management on major traffic Engineering schemes. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Programme Manager Central

Oxfordshire County Council
£37,107 - £43,757
We’re on a mission to enhance Oxfordshire – and with you by our side, that vision just became a reality. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Planning Obligations Manager

Oxfordshire County Council
£37,107 - £47,575
Committed to supporting growth across the county, you will ensure financial contributions are being actively and efficiently managed. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Funeral Assistant

Brent Council
£28,356 - £30,108 p.a. inc. plus Standby Allowance
Salary range
Recuriter: Brent Council

Area Engineer

Camden London Borough Council
£31,836 to £36,931
Does a combination of outdoor and office based work appeal to you? Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Economic Development Officer

Amber Valley Borough Council
Grade 6 - £24,657 to £28,221 per year
Amber Valley Borough Council are currently recruiting for an experienced Economic Development Officer Ripley, Derbyshire
Recuriter: Amber Valley Borough Council

Technical Officer (Highways & Drainage)

Oxfordshire County Council
£29,909 - £36,153 per annum (depending on experience)
Do you want to improve Oxfordshire's highways to make them better for residents, business, and visitors? Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Assistant Director, Public Space

London Borough of Merton
Up to c.£96k
ENHANCING AND PROTECTING GREAT PUBLIC SPACES Merton, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Merton

Assistant Director, Public Protection

London Borough of Merton
Up to c.£96k
ENHANCING AND PROTECTING GREAT PUBLIC SPACES Merton, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Merton

Download your Highways App

Google App Apple App

Highways on Fridays

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Includes:

  • Interviews with Jesse Norman and Jim O'Sullivan
  • Michael Matheson on road safety in Scotland
  • Traffex Road Expo Scotland review
View the latest issue

Latest Video