The leader of Cumbria County Council has called on MPs to urge the Chancellor to address a cut made ‘without any notice’ to its roads maintenance budget.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will today set out the Government’s budget, outlining its spending plans for the coming year.
One issue that the county council’s Labour leader, Stewart Young, hopes will be addressed is the recently announced cut to the authority’s capital highways maintenance budget, of 22% , for the coming year, according to a report by the News and Star.
Describing the February announcement from the Department for Transport as a ‘bombshell’, when speaking to the paper, Mr Young said on Monday that the news, coming just days before the council agreed its budget for the coming year, was announced in a ‘particularly disappointing’ way.
Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the council’s local committee for Carlisle, Mr Young said the announcement was made “without any notice, without any consultation, without any discussion”.
As a result of the drop in funding, of about £10.5m in comparison to the funding received the previous year, Mr Young said that “clearly, we are going to lose a number of schemes that we had planned to do for next year.
“All the planning was in place for them to be done, and now they’re not going to happen because we lost this money.”
The County Councils Network, which represents upper tier local authorities in England, has written to all MPs, including those in Cumbria, Mr Young added.
He said that the network has called on them to encourage the Chancellor to ensure local authorities do not face a reduction in funding to repair potholes.
“I’m personally trying to encourage our MPs to do that. We’ll find out on Wednesday whether that has had any effect or not,” he said.
The County Councils Network explained last month that the Conservative Government’s election manifesto included a commitment to a boost of £500m per year to fix potholes across the country, and was confirmed in the budget last March.
Last year, the first tranche of this investment saw core capital funding for local authorities rise to more than £1.7bn, allowing local authorities to “undertake significant improvements to local roads, with planned capital investment by CCN member councils rising 13 per cent in a single year”, the CCN said.
“Given the government commitment to continue to invest an additional £500m through the pothole fund over and above existing resources, CCN member councils were anticipating similar capital allocations for the forthcoming year.”
“Compared to the previous year, capital funding for councils to invest in road improvements and potholes will therefore reduce significantly by £398m. As a result of the reduction in funding, our councils will have no choice but to reduce investment next year, cancelling high priority planned works,” he added.