Proposed cuts to local government to have a detrimental effect on road maintenanceJanuary 9, 2015
Analysis of proposed changes to council’s spending powers in England has shown that road maintenance will be an area that becomes disproportionately affected.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC for example, said that the scale of the cuts will mean that there will be far less money available to maintain roads.
In addition, a Local Government Association spokesman, said that services likely to be cut will include road maintenance, due to an increasing demand put on adult social care. Councils are legally required to provide services such as adult social care, meaning that cuts will have to be imposed in other areas.
It is the legal duty of local authorities to have in place a reasonable system of inspection and repair with regard to roads and pavements. They should have the capabilities to record, investigate and act on complaints. Potholes, for example, and unsafe areas on pavements and roads are typically reported to the council and later fixed to prevent accidents. The upkeep of streetlights, and the gritting of major roads during the winter are also essential to public safety.
Budget cuts may make it harder for councils to meet these obligations however, which could result in more dangerous roads and paths, and an increase in accidents during the winter months.
The government announced in December that English councils were to face a budget cut of an average of 1.8% for the year 2015/2016. English council leaders however, argue that the figures are inaccurate, and see a fall in funds of 8.8% as more realistic, taking into account factors like inflation, and the strain of an ageing population. It has been reported that Middlesbrough Council is set to lose 5.6% of its spending power.
Only a quarter of local council funds are raised through council tax, with the rest being allocated to them from central government, so the proposed cuts will have a substantial effect.
In response to the cuts, Labour have argued that the councils in most need of funding were those who were to be worse affected. Mr Hopkins, Local Governments Minister, however, claimed that: “Councils facing the highest demand for services continue to substantially receive more funding and we continue to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4% in spending power in 2015-16, the lowest level in this Parliament.”
David Cameron has also defended the reduction in council spending power as part of the wider proposed public spending cuts, calling them “moderate, sensible and reasonable”.
James Pritchard, Specialist Personal Injury Solicitor at Macks commented “If colder weather does set in this winter then we will see a significant increase in the amount and size of potholes. If local authorities don’t have sufficient funds they will fall behind in repairs leading to more injuries and damage to vehicles. All local authorities are facing budget reductions however cutting back on road maintenance is not a solution to balancing the budget. Doing so will only lead to more accidents, more strain on the NHS and more compensation claims”.