Hampshire County Council has warned that the reduced funding provided by the Government for local councils in 2021/22 to look after local roads will mean already overstretched maintenance services will struggle to pay for much needed repairs next year and many planned improvement works will not now go ahead
The total capital funding allocated to Hampshire County Council for highways maintenance in 2021/22 is £38.8million, a huge reduction of 24% – just under a quarter of the amount provided by the Government for the current year.
Councillor Rob Humby, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment, said: “Looking after Hampshire’s network of over 5,500 miles of road is one of our top priorities, but, over the years, national funding for local road repairs has fallen to the point where the funding gap is now around £3m-£5m each year and much of the local network, particularly in rural areas, is in a state of decline.
“We know the impact good road maintenance has on people’s quality of life, and the part it plays in supporting the local economy, which is why we have established our Operation Resilience programme, providing additional funding to improve the worst affected parts of the network. But when the Government cuts the national funding provided to councils for road maintenance, the benefit of our local investment is diminished.
“The costs of COVID have put significant financial pressure on council budgets. With rising demand and cost pressures in social care further stretching the County Council’s finances, and decisions rightly made to prioritise reduced resources to the most vulnerable, services which are widely used by the majority of residents, such as highways, are losing out.
“It is imperative the Government provides adequate investment to help us slow down the decline of the local road network. We are not alone – county councils across the country have seen a significant drop in highways funding and are collectively calling on the Government to increase vital funding for local roads. Local Highway networks are the essential infrastructure that supports local economies, and whilst Government funding for new transport ideas is welcome, it is essential that the importance of maintaining the local road network – which supports over 90% of journeys in Hampshire – is properly recognised. As we plot a path to economic recovery from the pandemic, this is ever more urgent.”
Hampshire County Council invests an additional £10 million each year in its planned maintenance programme, Operation Resilience, and for this financial year, an additional £3 million of investment has been agreed to ensure more improvements can be made.