An extra £8m will be invested in improving Shropshire’s roads this year – with up to £120m added to Shropshire Council’s highways budget in the next four years – if councillors approve a report due at full council next week.
The report acknowledges that in recent years the highways network in Shropshire and nationally has deteriorated significantly leading to an increase in the number of potholes, and in the number of complaints from customers – particularly in the winter months.
It says that whilst a great deal of work has taken place over the past year to ensure that budgets are spent as effectively as possible, current levels of funding are insufficient to tackle the deterioration of the county’s roads.
Significant investment into the council’s highways service is therefore required to ensure that the network condition can be brought back to a more serviceable level.
The report estimates that it would take an investment in excess of £600m to ensure that all roads were brought up to “as new” condition – but that capital investment of between £60m and £100m would begin to show a significant improvement.
It therefore recommends that £8m is added to the highways budget in the current financial year, with significantly more to follow in future years. The £8m would be reallocated from other budgets.
Officers will also be asked to identify the level and source of the subsequent years’ funding, with a report due to come back before full Council once this work has been carried out,
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for highways, who wrote to residents about the state of the county’s roads, said: “I’ve made a personal commitment to improve our roads, and I’m determined that this will happen. To make it happen will require a significant investment.
“We committed to an investment of £40m over four years, but it’s become clear that a much greater investment is needed if we are to bring our roads up to standard. We also need a consistent, multi-year programme of work, that will enable us to better plan ahead, and save money as a result. Shropshire Council is like every other council in needing significant investment in highways, and an increase in its existing highway budget.
“Quite simply, If we invest this money, the condition of our roads will improve. Conversely, if we don’t things will get worse, and I don’t want to let that happen. By agreeing to this investment, councillors will be giving 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 mean that Shropshire Council has to respond to the significant fluctuations in its highways budget each year.
As other councils are also reacting to last minute allocations of funding the market is very competitive, which sees costs rise, and means the council doesn’t receive value for money.
A commitment to a consistent multi-year investment strategy would 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 could also 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.
The initial £8m would help the council to prepare for the work that will be made possible by the further, additional, investment.