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Scottish council roads worsen, say auditors

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The condition of Scotland’s roads deteriorated sharply even before the impact of council spending cuts began to bite.

That is the conclusion of an Audit Scotland report, which said the condition of  both council roads and trunk roads owned by Transport Scotland’s had worsened since its last report in 2004.

Fewer than half the 32 councils reported their roads maintenance backlog to councillors and a third had failed to develop road asset management plans.

The report noted: “Despite public spending in Scotland rising by around 25% since our [2004] report, the condition of Scotland’s roads has worsened and only 63% are now in an acceptable condition.”

Just 58% of unclassified roads owned by councils were in acceptable condition.

Auditors found that councils did not routinely compare their costs and performance with each other or the private sector and possessed no costed model to judge the benefits of sharing services.

Councils had been hit by the cost of road maintenance rising at a higher rate than inflation in the whole economy.

The report said that in 2009-10, councils spent £492m roads maintenance, which was 5% higher than in 2004-05 in cash terms, but 13% less in real terms because costs had risen.

It said councils estimated that to maintain roads in their current condition, they would need to spend £45m more each year for the next decade on long-term structural maintenance.

Robert Black, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “Members of the public are increasingly dissatisfied with the condition of our roads. The pattern of spending and scale of backlog means that the value of these public assets is not being sustained.

“But by deferring essential expenditure on infrastructure, public bodies are storing up problems for the future and passing a greater burden onto generations to come.”

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