Analysis by the AA has revealed that 62% of local authorities in England cut their highways and transport budget in 2016-17, sparking close media scrutiny of council spending and concern over the impact of austerity. However, questions remain over how they can best respond to these challenges.
Amid several years of austerity and growing concerns over social care costs and the impact of the living wage, the government's decision to freeze council funding in 2017/18 has already led to warnings of cuts to essential services. Now, the AA is reporting the scale of the problem for motorists.
The report is based on Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) budget submissions, which suggest the average reduction in spend is £500,000 per council. This number is affected by the fact that some authorities are increasing their outgoings – the average figure for just those who are making savings rises to £900,000.
The AA is using the study to highlight the dangers of cutting transport budgets, specifically criticising plans to dim or switch off street lights as a move that could cause more accidents. Equally, according to Auto Express, a lack of money has led to a £12 billion backlog of pothole repairs – and the number of pothole-related call-outs to the RAC has increased by 63% since 2016.
Commentators have also been quick to question funding choices. The Express, for example, has contrasted the cuts with the increase in parking revenues at most councils.
The reports leave councils in a difficult position, as their budgeting situation requires tough choices, but also needs public support as necessary measures are implemented.
North Yorkshire Council has already refuted the AA statistics in a bid to help residents understand the complex financial arrangements. However, local authorities may also have to consider whether their cash flow strategies really are robust enough.
Recent reports suggest tax collection rates have fallen again – Liverpool has seen its worst one for 20 years, while Coventry’s unpaid council tax amounts to £12.5m. Working to implement sensitive, effective ways to recover amounts which could be higher than the road budget cuts may make a real difference to frontline services.
For more information on how Dukes Bailiffs can help you with your cash flow, contact our centre manager today.