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Scotland's roads are deteriorating from budget cuts, says UNISON report

7th December 2017

Photograph of Scotland's roads are deteriorating from budget cuts, says UNISON report

Council road budgets have been cut by 21% since 2012 which is having a serious detrimental effect on Scotland's road network, says a UNISON report released today (Friday 8 December 2017).

UNISON Scotland's report, Road to Nowhere, consulted council road teams across Scotland including: road workers, engineers, technicians, team leaders and managers. Whose responsibilities include: road maintenance, traffic management, and street lighting.

The workforce reported that they struggle to manage budget cuts, sometimes severe budget cuts. They are suffering job losses, and ageing workforce, have difficulty recruiting - especially younger workers, and have low morale. This is at a time when our roads are under increasing pressures.

The report's main findings are:

• Council’s are being forced to opt for short-term cheaper fixes that store up expensive bigger maintenance problems for the future.

• UNISON have indentified 296 job vacancies in road teams across Scotland ( not all responded to this question). Councils report difficulty recruiting workers who can get better pay elsewhere.

• Road team’s are overworked and underpaid. They have suffered a decade of pay cuts. Demand for road repairs is increasing. Many skip breaks or work late to finish jobs. 9 in 10 say they feel under-valued and that morale in the roads teams workforce is low or very low.

• Budget cuts mean that fewer young people are coming into the workforce, storing up future problems.

Dave Watson, UNISON head of policy and public affairs, said: "UNISON’s report uncovers the simple truth, that there is just too much work to do with too few staff. Road use in Scotland is increasing and the demands on this workforce increases every year. We also need to meet our climate change targets and improve air quality. This is not the time to cut back on road workers.

And we are storing up real problems for the future. Quick fixes mean roads will need more expensive repairs in years to come. We are losing workers with high quality skills and experience and not replacing them, and the workforce is getting older with less young people joining road teams. A decent road network is crucial to Scotland’s businesses, public services and quality of life. It is vital that we have a well maintained roads network."

Scotland’s road network has already suffered substantial cuts and cuts will continue until 2021. The pressure on Scotland’s road network includes: local bus mileage is down 7% and local authority bus mileage is down 34% since 2005; increased traffic volume and congestion; increased house building and commercial developments put extra demands on local authority roads teams; increased utilities street openings; political demands for more cycleway segregation; driverless cars and new HGVs will need different infrastructure; pollution from road traffic continues to rise; increased congestion charging and more low emissions zones.

Examples of what road team staff say in report:

"Budgets are being cut year on year. Understandably services like Education and Social Care Budgets are being loaded first, however if the roads are left to deteriorate at the current levels there will be a huge bill to repair them and someone will have to pay."

"Everyone [is] frustrated that we cannot provide the same level of service as we used to do, due to continues staff cuts."

“Far too much to do, not enough time, insufficient management and political support”.

“I now accept that I am unable to complete everything so have to prioritise certain things to the detriment of others.”

“I used to regularly work through lunchtimes and work later after hours in the evening, but I have stopped doing this are reducing topped as it has been affecting my health.”

We no longer carry out large scale projects due to lack of resources. This is now contracted out to consultants when required which costs more and has a negative impact on our budgets. We also do not make significant improvements to our roads assets anymore and tend to maintain the condition to an acceptable level. We are now noticing that the overall condition of our assets

Far too many job requirements and not enough time to actually complete complex tasks.

Half the staff double the work!

The work of eight people is now being carried out by six

It is no exaggeration to say my own workload has doubled in the last few years covering new areas emerging from within current work areas and also the responsibilities that were left following staff reductions


• While trunk roads are the responsibility of Transport Scotland and the remainder of our roads are the responsibility of local authorities. The roads teams cover roads maintenance, traffic management and lighting. Some roads team work across more than one local authority or department. The roads staff who responded to our survey hold a range of jobs including road workers, engineers, technicians, team leaders and managers. This is a highly qualified workforce. Respondents hold a range of qualification including HNDs, degrees, master and charter degrees and a range of qualifications like SVQs in roads maintenance, winter maintenance and HGV licences.

• Read full report here:

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