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£1.5m Extra For Roads Across Highland - Caithness Share £164,400

20th February 2019

Investment of an additional £1.5m for roads maintenance was approved as a priority area for the Council's revenue budget.

The additional money will help to boost the annual budget for pothole repairs, clearing culverts, and bridge maintenance.

The Highland Council has the longest road network in the UK with over 4,000 miles of local roads and 1,400 bridges.

The funding will be shared out across Highland according to the existing roads maintenance allocation model. Each area committee will be able to decide how their share is allocated locally, based on local road condition surveys.

Chair of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee Cllr Allan Henderson said:"We have the most extensive network of roads in the UK and added to this, we are faced with some of the most severe weather conditions in the Highlands. The freeze-thaw conditions in particular cause immense damage to road surfaces and this is very evident in the past few weeks.

"Local roads are vital to connecting our communities and keeping them sustainable. Road conditions are a high priority for local residents and this was very clear in our recent engagement with communities and local representatives. The additional resource will, I hope, make a noticeable difference and can be allocated to the roads with the most urgent need of repairs, right across the Highlands."

The Area allocations have been calculated using the historic distribution formula which uses weighted road mileage and population. The allocation will be as follows:

Badenoch & Strathspey £84,750

Caithness £164,400

Inverness £244,950

Lochaber £148,950

Nairn £66,900

Ross & Cromarty £365,400

Isle of Skye £132,150

Sutherland £292,500

Total £1,500,000

Trunk roads including the A9, A82, A96 and A87 are managed by Transport Scotland and maintained by Bear Scotland.

An August 2016 Audit Scotland said "Urgent action is needed if the condition of Scotland's roads is to improve. Proper maintenance of the roads network is vital for economic prosperity and for people to get around safely."

However, roads authorities, locally and nationally, urgently need to be more innovative, develop robust ways to compare relative efficiency, and engage better with road users. Sharing roads maintenance services on a regional basis can offer significant benefits but progress in developing this has been slow and there is still no clear plan or timetable to deliver it in practice.

Councils maintain most of Scotland's roads network. The proportion of these roads classed as being in acceptable condition has remained constant at around 63 per cent over the four years 2011/12 to 2014/15. Councils' spending on maintenance fell by 14 per cent over the same period. There is a wide variation among councils and concern that current surveys do not always pick up damage to lower road layers.

Accounts Commission chair Douglas Sinclair, said: "The state of our roads is a major concern for the public. Surveys show that they remain dissatisfied, despite these concerns being flagged up in our

two previous reports. Their voice needs to be listened to.

"Councils face increasing pressures and challenges but progress in developing a shared services approach for roads has been disappointingly slow. They can and should collaborate much more to secure better value for money."

Transport Scotland maintains motorways and key trunk routes where spending fell by four per cent between 2011/12 and 2014/15. The proportion in acceptable condition also fell from 90 per cent to 87 per cent over the same period. Transport Scotland spent £24 million less on structural maintenance in 2014/15 than it considered necessary to maintain road condition at current levels.

Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: "A well-maintained roads network is vital for Scotland's economic prosperity. We cannot afford to neglect it. What is needed is a longer term view which takes

into account both the need for new roads and the proper maintenance of what we have at present."

A follow up report was published by Audit Scotland on 27th June 2018 and it include reports from other groups. It makes for grim reading showing not much has improved.

The full report can be seen at http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/report/maintaining-scotlands-roads-a-follow-up-report-impact-report

Some statements in the report are telling -

The Strategic Action Group (SAG) for roads maintenance published its response to our audit recommendations in January 2018. The response presents a mixed picture of progress. Many of the actions outlined are ongoing or long-term in nature and will take time to demonstrate impact.

The response indicates that there is now a consensus between SAG members that the current model of roads maintenance delivery in Scotland is likely to be unsustainable. However, there is not yet a clear plan in place to address these structural challenges. In particular, progress towards sharing services and greater collaboration at a strategic level remains slow.

There is some good progress reported in operational areas, such as continuing improvements in roads asset management processes, benchmarking, and shared efforts to address workforce and training pressures.

According to road condition data, there has been no notable change in the proportion of roads in acceptable condition since publication of our last audit in August 2016. The survey approach and time lag in the data means that it has been relatively short timeframe since our last report to see any change in condition. The latest road condition figures also do not capture the impact of the severe winter weather experienced in 2017-2018.

The condition of council maintained roads had remained stable at 63 per cent in acceptable condition over the period 2011/12 to 2014/15. Over the same period, overall council expenditure on roads maintenance had continued to decline, from £302 million to £259 million (14 per cent). Behind these overall figures there was significant variation in performance and spend across councils. Overall council spend on planned and routine maintenance was £33

million (13 per cent) less than the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) considered was necessary to maintain current road condition.

The condition of trunk roads had reduced from 90 per cent in acceptable condition in 2011/12 to 87 per cent in 2014/15, mainly due to declining motorway condition. Expenditure on trunk roads maintenance had declined by 4 per cent over the same period, from £168 million to £162 million. Transport Scotland had spent £24 million (38 per cent) less on structural maintenance than it considered necessary to maintain current trunk road condition.

 

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