Fix our funds to fix our roads

Letter to Secretary of State

13 December 2021

Dear Secretary of State

Road maintenance funding for Lincolnshire

As I’m sure you are aware, Lincolnshire is England’s second-largest county. As such, as the local highway authority, we maintain over 5,500 miles of road across the county.

Unfortunately, our roads maintenance grant from government was reduced by just over £12 million in February 2021, a reduction of 25% on our 2020 grant. This was tremendously disappointing for our county, especially at a time when local government has been at the forefront of government spending cuts for ten years.

Despite finding corporate savings of £354m since 2011, we have always protected the highways maintenance budget from any cuts in response to the very strong steer from voters and the public.

Our roads are vitally important to the livelihoods of our residents and the prosperity of our businesses. In fact, they are the social and economic lifeblood of our county. To ensure the condition of our roads didn’t deteriorate any further, we were forced to step in to fill this £12 million funding gap.

However, despite the recent government grant settlement, we still expect to face a cumulative funding shortfall of around £57m over the next four years. That means we simply can’t continue covering the £12 million roads maintenance cut that has been thrust upon us as we will already need to find savings and use reserves to balance our budget.

In Lincolnshire, 12% of our road network is already classed as being in poor or very poor condition. That’s 660 miles of roads – thankfully, mostly rural – that are almost undrivable and could very quickly become unsafe because we cannot afford to sufficiently maintain them. Having £12 million less to spend on our highways means we’d be filling 24,000 fewer potholes and rebuilding 37 fewer miles of carriageway in desperate need of repair each year.

Unless this funding shortfall is rectified, the situation could soon spiral out of control and require even more spending in future.

We have continued increasing efficiency to ensure we get the greatest possible value for money from the roads funding we do receive. In fact, we were one of the first highways authorities in the country to be awarded Band 3 status.

But efficiency can only get us so far and the maintenance funding we are receiving simply isn’t enough. At some point, something has got to give.

That’s why we are requesting a reinstatement of the funding shortfall within the roads maintenance grant for 2022/23 that mirrors the construction inflation rises that we are experiencing. In addition, we’re also asking you for a long-term commitment to our roads so that we can further improve our efficiency, plan better for the future, and commit to investment with our supply chain partners.

We’ve been working closely with our local MPs to get you and other Westminster decision-makers to hear our plea. In fact, Lincoln’s MP Karl McCartney raised our concerns during PMQ on Tuesday 24 November, to which the Prime Minister replied “I’m sure the Secretary of State for Transport will listen very carefully to what he has to say”. We sincerely hope you are listening.

Our area has been chronically underfunded for years, with our residents continually being denied their fair share of government funding. In fact, the Treasury’s own figures have consistently shown the East Midlands to be lowest funded region per head for transport in the UK.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that we face additional costs compared to urban areas because our road network covers such a large geographical area.

We’ve been fighting for fairer funding for a number of years and, although the government has admitted there’s a need to reform local government funding, there has been no action. As a result, our roads are in danger of bearing the brunt of this due to cost pressures from our statutory services.

At the very least, you have the power to introduce a fairer way of sharing out the available highways funding, ensuring that areas like Lincolnshire are no longer left behind.

Otherwise, reinstate the 25% reduction because crumbling roads are a significant drag on economic growth and business confidence.

It would be counter-productive in the government’s levelling up agenda.

We hope that the government can find a way to address our genuine and significant concerns.

Yours sincerely

CllrMHill Signature CllrRDavies Signature

Councillor Martin Hill OBE

Councillor Richard Davies
Executive Councillor Highways and Transport