Roads

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th July 1988.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Opposition Spokesperson (Local Government & Poll Tax), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 12:00 am, 11th July 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he proposes to take in the light of the Audit Commission report on local authority maintained roads; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

The main action is for local authorities. I have already urged them to implement the commission's recommendations for spending up to their provision on maintenance, and for improving the efficiency of their arrangements. I repeated this message at a meeting with them only last week.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Opposition Spokesperson (Local Government & Poll Tax), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Secretary of State will be aware that the Association of Metropolitan Authorities has welcomed the bulk of the Audit Commission's report, but obviously some matters still cause it concern. Over the 10 years to 1986 traffic on urban roads increased by more than 20 per cent., but spending fell by 10 per cent. Deregulation has put more traffic on the roads, and revenue support for public transport fell from £512 million to £249 million between 1982 and 1987. As a consequence, and as has already been said this afternoon, there is a major crisis in road maintenance and traffic management. Does the Secretary of State have any positive proposals rather than encouraging local authorities to spend more and then penalising them when they do so?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I am not doing the latter, as the hon. Member knows. I have provided local authorities with nearly £150 million for 1988–89 above their estimated expenditure. If only local authorities will get on and spend that money, local roads will be considerably improved. That is the action I am urging them to take.

Photo of Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo , Nottingham South

I am sure that my right hon. Friend agrees that people living in our larger cities, such as Nottingham, hold their district council responsible, when it is the county council that holds the purse strings. Will he re-examine that aspect and either insist that counties spend their full allocation, or make the money available to districts, so that they can deliver what the public demand of them?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I shall consider my hon. Friend's suggestion, although I suspect that it might turn out to be mildly controversial. The important point is that the relevant authorities have had the money and they must spend it, or our local urban roads will deteriorate, and then the cure will be very much more expensive.