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The backlog for highway maintenance is bad and getting worse according to a new survey of the UK's local authoritie...
The backlog for highway maintenance is bad and getting worse according to a new survey of the UK's local authorities by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

The Local Transport and Public Realm Survey 2002 sees the UK's local authorities admit that they are in a situation where they are unable to tackle the existing backlog, and face it growing in the near future.

Over three quarters of local authorities admit the backlog of maintenance work has increased over the last 12 months. And the cost of eliminating the total backlog, including repairing roads, footpaths, streetlights and traffic signals, is estimated to be over£120 per UK resident. The vast majority of this required spend - just over£90 per head - must be allocated to repairing carriageways according to the survey. The need to spend£20 per head to bring street lighting up to standard came a distant second.

Worrying, insofar as eroding the highways maintenance backlog goes, is the fact that on average local authorities spend only 87% of their highways maintenance statutory spending allowance as intended, with that figure dipping as low as 66% for one respondent.

As a result of this lack of investment, the worsening condition of highways has caused the numbers of highway liability claims to rocket. More than half of local authorities report a more than 10% rise in such claims over the last twelve months. The result of this neglect is that almost a quarter of those surveyed now spend over 10% of their highways budget on liability claims.

Spending is not the only financial issue to cause concern in the survey results. Equally worrying is the funding system. Thirty-seven per cent of local authorities believe the system is 'awkward', with a further 34% branding it 'highly complex and time wasting'. Tellingly, only 3% of those surveyed believed it to be 'simple and effective'.

Non-financial aspects of local transport planning also perturb local authorities. Concerns expressed about the difficulties in recruiting suitably qualified staff pose an obvious and immediate threat to the activities of a great number of local authorities. Eighty-two per cent of the authorities surveyed acknowledged 'severe' or 'significant' difficulties in recruiting senior staff, and 81% face the same problems appointing junior staff, for transport planning roles. The fact that authorities are readying themselves for a further decline in the number of available staff suggests that things will get worse before they get better.

The ICE Local Transport and Public Realm Survey 2002 can be downloaded here .


The Institution of Civil Engineers is the pre-eminent engineering institution in the world. Established as a learned society in 1818, it has 78,000 members and provides a voice for civil engineering, continuing professional development and promoting best practice throughout the industry.

The ICE Local Transport andPublic Realm Survey 2002 was conducted amongst local authorities. The results reflect the opinions of local authorities responsible for 30% of Great Britain's population base.

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