An extra £59m will be added to Shropshire Council’s highways budget in the next four years – after the council’s financial strategy was approved this week.
It follows the addition of £8m to this year’s highways budget, agreed at a meeting of Full Council last July – making a total increase of £67m.
The additional funding will enable the council to make significant improvements to the county’s roads, and put in place a consistent, multi-year programme of work, that will enable it to better plan ahead, and save money as a result.
A report to full Council in July 2021 acknowledged that the highways network in Shropshire and nationally has deteriorated significantly in recent years, leading to an increase in the number of potholes, and in the number of complaints from customers – particularly in the winter months.
It said that, whilst a great deal of work has taken place over the past year to ensure that budgets are spent as effectively as possible, significant investment into the council’s highways service was required to ensure that the network condition can be brought back to a more serviceable level.
The report said that capital investment of £60m or more would begin to show a significant improvement.
Officers will now use asset management records to inform how best to spend the additional investment in the coming years.
Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for physical infrastructure, said:“We’ve made a commitment to improve our roads, and to make it happen will require a significant investment. We have already made great strides in improving the performance of our highways service but this boost in investment is necessary to carry out essential maintenance work.
“In our election manifesto we committed to an investment of £40m over four years, but it soon became clear that a much greater investment is needed if we are to bring our roads up to standard. I’m therefore delighted that an investment of more than £60m has now been agreed.
“Quite simply, by investing this money, the condition of extensive parts of our road network will improve.
“By agreeing to this investment, councillors have given us the financial means we need to improve the county’s roads – something that we all want to see happen.”
At the moment irregular – and unpredictable – injections of Government funding mean that Shropshire Council has to respond to the significant fluctuations in its highways budget each year.
A commitment to a consistent multi-year investment strategy will enable the council’s highways service to gain improved value for money from the supply chain, increase quality of work and provide greater opportunities for more proactive engagement with stakeholders.
With certainty of funding, a clear forward plan of work will be set out that can be adequately resourced by both the council and supply chain, with sub-contractors tied to a multi-year term rather than ad hoc annual procurement as is the case at the moment.