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PAC slams road maintenance cuts

Cuts in road maintenance spending could cost taxpayers more in the long term, and are likely to increase repair bills for motorists, the Public Accounts Committee has stated.

The committee argues that the Department for Transport does not have a “full understanding of the likely impact of reducing road maintenance budgets” and adds that it is unclear how many councils can make significant savings on road maintenance.

The PAC report reads: “We are concerned that the department has not estimated the costs of meeting potential extra claims.”

In a separate criticism, it insisted that Network Rail, which spends billions of pounds of public money and has vast debts which the taxpayer is responsible for, should be subject to National Audit Office scrutiny. The committee accused officials of “hiding behind the Office for National Statistics’ classification of Network Rail as a private company”.  

Transport minister Norman Baker said the Government would consider the report carefully and said it did acknowledge “the robust efficiencies we have already put in place and our continued investment in infrastructure”.

He added: “I recognise there is an ongoing need for highways maintenance that can’t be fixed overnight. However, we are providing £3bn to councils for road maintenance between 2011 and 2015, which is more in cash terms than the previous four years – as well as investing £6m for longer-term strategies.

“We also gave them generous windfall handouts last year following the severe winter which caused major problems.”

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