RSTA Insights: Making the investment case to (and with) government

02/09/2021
Paul Boss

Paul Boss, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association, outlines the hard work being done behind the scenes to secure proper investment in local highway maintenance.

At the meeting of the UKRLG / ADEPT Asset Management Board in early February this year, the main item on the agenda was the work our now late friend Steve Berry had begun - to try and secure a deal for the highway maintenance sector.

Steve had made great gains in securing additional funding over recent years through pothole, inclement weather and challenge funds. His ultimate goal in this area was to secure guaranteed funding that would enable local highway authorities and the supply chain to properly plan and manage our highway assets with known investment numbers for the next few years.

He also desired the investment would be based on needs rather than historical budgets to ensure improvements in the condition of the network, structures and other assets that form part of our most valuable public asset.

The business case was initiated by Steve who at the time planned to see it through, such was his commitment to the cause.

It was agreed the Board would work with the Department for Transport (DfT) to develop a comprehensive business case for investing in highway maintenance, for submission to HM Treasury and Government, prior to the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

The results of the CSR are due to be announced this autumn following a postponement last year, which saw one-year indicative allocations announced that were reduced significantly shortly before the current financial year begun, leading to many last minute cuts to planned works, adding further to the already long local backlog.

Work began, initially using the Public Value Framework template, with four pillars/themes agreed, pursuing goals, managing inputs, user and citizen engagement, and developing system capacity.

Pillar teams, each with a lead, were then agreed and a number of questions were posed beneath each theme. Each question was given an evidence base, that could be developed to demonstrate the requirement for needs-based and preferably medium to long-term funding.

Narratives for each pillar were then also developed and 65 individual case studies agreed for development to demonstrate success to various audiences as required.

The next stage was to agree who would develop each of the case studies to be submitted within the overall business case and get to work on these, ensuring they were completed within the short timescales available to us.

The final draft business case and the required case studies were submitted to the DfT in mid-August, with the finalised submission at the end of August.

The finalised business case will hopefully be approved shortly and submitted to HM Treasury. It will be pivotal in securing the needs-based medium term funding that has for so long eluded the sector, to the detriment of our local highway asset.

What the business case for investing in highway maintenance demonstrates is not only the funding required but also how properly funded and planned programmes of maintenance will ensure massive efficiency savings.

This is particularly true where preventative maintenance programmes of whole-lifecycle costed maintenance can be fully implemented, whilst also reducing our carbon generation substantially as a result of our highway operations and ensuring a more sustainable future for our country and the planet.

Added to this, is the demonstration within the business case of the contribution the local highways asset makes to the local and national economy and the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Contributing to our need to build back better, the required funding, if forthcoming, will repay itself several times over in relation to the state of the nation and the effects on the economy, health and wellbeing.

My hope, and I know the hope of my colleagues who sit on the UKRLG / ADEPT Asset Management Board, is that the case for investing in highway maintenance is successful for all the benefits it would bring to the nation, and how fitting a final legacy it could prove for Steve.

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