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Funding pressures lead to Scottish councils cutting road maintenance spending by a fifth

The latest report on local authority finances has found that councils across Scotland have slashed road maintenance spending by 20% as budgets across the nation continue to feel the squeeze.

Findings published by the Local Government Benchmarking Framework shows spending on Scotland’s roads has been cut by almost £140m, based on data collected for the last seven years, dating back to 2010-11.  

The Scottish average cost per kilometre is shown to have reduced by 21.2% in real terms from £13,239 to £10,456. Although, the report’s authors have highlighted an increase in spending by 1.6% over the past year and this is said to be down to an increase in capital expenditure as councils strive to tackle the backlog of maintenance and improvements.

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) president Alison Evison, who also chairs the board, said: “Today’s report shows that the cuts to local government have really started to bite, particularly in the non-statutory services. Local government cannot continue to be the poor relation of the public sector and the fact that roads spending is down 20% will not have gone unnoticed.”

The research has showed that overall government funding for councils has fallen by 7.6% in real terms, from £10.5bn to £9.7bn. Non-statutory services have been hardest hit in council budgets, as spending on education, social care and child protection remain protected. 

Despite the reductions, the report does acknowledge a “slight improvement” in the overall condition of Scottish roads, but in the past year A-roads had shown a “slight deterioration”. During this time councils have achieved substantial improvements in efficiency, innovation and productivity while service output and outcomes have been largely maintained and improved, according to the report.

The latest findings comes after last year when the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) suggested that the existing backlog of repairs to Scotland’s road networks was valued at £1.6bn.

The Scottish National Party have laid the blame at cuts at Westminster’s door with continued reductions in money, while opposition politicians believe the report shows Scotland is not prepared for the winter. 

The data contained in the benchmarking framework is published annually by the improvement service. Benchmarking uses specific indicators to measure how organisations are performing, for example, how much a service costs per user. These provide a simple metric which can then be compared across organisations, year-on-year.