Government cuts mean less to spend on county roads
- Credit: Archant
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are set to receive 20 per cent less funding for highways maintenance from the government this year.
The government announced on February 18 that the highways maintenance allocation for the county will be around £27.7 million for the financial year 2021/22 – compared with around £35 million the year before.
A government spokesperson said its November 25 spending review “rightly prioritised the response to Covid-19,” but that “funding for pothole fixing and road maintenance is still very significant”.
A spokesperson for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority said: “The government has reduced the national budget for highways maintenance, and the allocation for our area has fallen in line with that national reduction.
“This is an unwelcome surprise, since the government carried out a consultation assuming a higher figure, but it is important to recognise that we are not alone in having to adjust our plans.
“We will discuss the impact of this reduction with the Department for Transport.”
Liberal Democrat county councillor Lorna Dupre said the “shocking state” of the Cambridgeshire’s roads is a “constant concern of local residents”.
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She said: “The county council has a long wish list of highways improvement projects with no cash to fund them.
“We are in no position to lose yet more money from stretched budgets.
“Most of the cut of £7.5 million in road repair money for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will fall to Cambridgeshire, completely overwhelming the extra money Conservative councillors promised for highways maintenance in their recent budget.
“It’s seriously bad news that the Conservative Government has cut this grant so severely, and disappointing that the Conservative administration at Shire Hall hasn’t been able to argue for a better deal for Cambridgeshire.”
Conservative leader of the council, Steve Count, said additional money for highways and footpaths allocated in the council’s budget in February – including around £5 million extra this year, adding up to around £29 million over the next five years – will not be impacted.
He said the funding commitment in February was made to guarantee the spending on highways and footpaths “whatever level of funding would be subsequently received by government, as the amount was unknown at the time”.
Unless the county had received significantly more than anticipated, he said, further funds would have been used to reduce the capital borrowing in the budget which was in part relied on to make the financial commitments for highways and footpaths agreed in February.
He added: “We are of course disappointed that more of this could not have come from central government”.
Cllr Count said the highways maintenance funding from the government is allocated based on national formula, with a certain amount top sliced for national projects, but defended his council’s efforts to secure funding, saying Cambridgeshire “consistently gets the maximum under the formula”.
He also criticised the Liberal Democrats for not supporting the Conservative budget proposals for further investment in highways in February and in previous budgets.
The Liberal Democrats responded by saying the Conservative’s highways spending proposals were included in and voted on as part of wider budget plans, and that the Conservatives did not support the Liberal Democrat’s budget amendments for extra spending on highways either.