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Road spending under threat

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Highways directors fear the condition of council roads will worsen because the tight comprehensive spending review follows a three-year spending freeze in the service.

The one percent real-terms increase in local government funding will be fought over by services, with adult social care likely to secure the lion's share to meet rising demand.

Road maintenance costs are increasing more than five percent a year, driven by the rise in the price of oil used to manufacture surfacing materials.

But the service's budget allocation was frozen at£2.05bn a year by the 2004 spending review.

CountySurveyors' Society president Richard Wills said: "The one percent increase in spending is not sufficient and a lot of people- related services like education and social services have staff costs tied up in contracts.

"Generally, councils see a degree of flexibility in how much highways maintenance they do, so it appears an easier cut to make."

The spending review also allocated councils£212m to reimburse bus operators for carrying older and disabled people entitled to free bus travel from next April. This will rise to£223m by 2010-11.

Mr Wills said: "My concern is that if operators feel they are not getting reimbursed enough they will withdraw services.

"Councils would then have to decide whether or not to subsidise those routes when there will already be budget pressures on existing subsidised routes."

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