Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Local Government Association (RM 06)


  1.  The Association welcomes the opportunity to submit comments to this inquiry and would be particularly interested in the comments about local authority practices received by the Sub-Committee from road users of all types. It is possible to comment only in general terms given the tight deadline. The inquiry has been brought to the attention of the Association's member authorities and, in particular, the relevant officer societies for authorities responsible for highway maintenance. The Association has liaised with the CSS (formerly County Surveyors Society), which the Sub-Committee will be aware has taken a close interest in developments in this area and is aware of and supports the contents of that Society's more detailed submission to the Sub-Committee. Most comments in this evidence relate to local authority principal roads. The Association does not have evidence readily available on maintenance standards on motorways and trunk roads since the Highways Agency changed its maintenance agency arrangements in the last five years.

  2.  The Sub-Committee will be well aware that investigations into road maintenance standards, and the adequacy of funding levels, have recurred on a number of occasions over the past two decades. The past and present Local Authority Associations generally have expressed more concern on those occasions over the inadequate funding levels for maintenance of local roads and more specifically their fears that the provision in highway maintenance RSG consistently had not been sufficient to prevent continuing structural deterioration. Principal roads had not faced the same historic level of shortfall, and motorways and trunk roads seemed to receive consistently much higher maintenance funding allocations than local authority roads in general.


  3.  The Sub-Committee will be aware of the de-trunking programme now under way. The LGA and its predecessor associations had campaigned for this for many years and believes that the outcome will be more efficient and effective maintenance of the de-trunked roads as part of a unified network by the local highway authority. For this transfer of responsibility to be effective the LGA has been in detailed discussions over the past year with DETR and Highway Agency officials to try to ensure that the transfer of funding resources for these roads from the Agency to the local highway authority is, and will continue to be, sufficient to ensure that the roads' current maintenance standards can be maintained in the longer term.

  4.  An issue raised recently by LGA members and which will apply to all types of road, and which may have been exacerbated by the recent spell of wet weather, is a need to replace or reinforce long-standing retaining walls. For example, replacing dry stone walls with modern structures can be expensive, and authorities in the areas concerned will be looking to ensure that these special needs are not overlooked.

  5.  Some principal future developments about which the Sub-Committee will be aware and which should be helpful for both the funding and the management of principal and other local road maintenance activities will include:

    —  the LTP process and its monitoring mechanisms formalised by the Transport Act 2000;

    —  possible use of additional income from new local road user charging options set out in the Transport Act 2000;

    —  use of the street works charging mechanisms set out in the Transport Act 2000, as necessary to ensure compliance; and

    —  publication and wide dissemination of the revised LAAs Highway Maintenance Code of Practice (see the CSS written evidence).

January 2001

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