The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to extend council powers to deal with disruption caused by utility roadworks. Will the LGA’s proposal help local authorities manage rising traffic levels and poor road conditions?
The real cost of roadworks
According to the LGA, substandard utility streetworks cost councils £220m – almost 20% of their maintenance budgets. Recent studies show businesses and drivers are feeling the impact too. LGA research revealed that 75% of SMEs are negatively affected by roadworks, while government statistics show British commuters spend on average nine working days a year in traffic jams – creating a £4.5bn annual bill for the economy.
With £12bn worth of outstanding road repairs, and a 55% rise in traffic levels predicted for 2040, the LGA believes councils need more powers to tackle this situation.
Introducing lane rental
The LGA is calling on the government to make it easier for councils to implement lane rental schemes that allow utility companies to be charged for works completed on busy routes at peak times. Currently, local authorities must seek approval from the Secretary of State for Transport to introduce such charges.
LGA Transport Spokesman Councillor Peter Box said: “Councils know their areas best and should be able to make decisions about traffic locally. This means they need the option of being able to introduce lane rental schemes without Secretary of State approval”.
Lessons from existing schemes
Transport for London (TfL) and Kent County Council are the only bodies to have been granted permission to introduce lane rental schemes. The LGA highlighted that in the two years since TfL began using its powers, severe delays due to roadworks have been cut in half.
The Association believes these schemes provide an incentive for utility companies to complete works quickly and effectively, and are a welcome boost to council funds for essential transport services. Kent County Council uses any surplus from the scheme for infrastructure, transport and related industry research and development.
The government is yet to respond to the LGA’s appeal. In the meantime, councils can build up their cash reserves to deal with pressing traffic issues. Ethical Enforcement Agents like Dukes Bailiffs can assist with this by collecting outstanding council tax arrears in a professional and timely way. Speak to our Contact Centre Manager to find out how we can help.