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New Forest road repairs may be scrapped over hole in government funding

The council has been handed £38.8m for its highways for 2021/22
The council has been handed £38.8m for its highways for 2021/22

MUCH-NEEDED road repair schemes could be scrapped, Hampshire County Council’s deputy leader has warned, after the government provided it with nearly a quarter less funding this year.

The council has been handed £38.8m for its highways for 2021/22 which civic chiefs said will test their already overstretched maintenance services.

Cllr Rob Humby, who is also HCC cabinet member for economy, transport and environment, said: “Looking after Hampshire’s network of over 5,500 miles of road is one of our top priorities.

“But over the years national funding for local road repairs has fallen to the point where the funding gap is now around £3m-£5m each year and much of the local network, particularly in rural areas, is in a state of decline.”

He pointed to HCC’s own £10m Operation Resilience programme to look after highways, but added that “when the government cuts the national funding provided to councils for road maintenance, the benefit of our local investment is diminished”.

Covid-19 had put “significant financial pressure” budgets, Cllr Humby said, noting that rising demand and cost pressures in social care had meant services such as highways were missing out.

“It is imperative the government provides adequate investment to help us slow down the decline of the local road network,” he said.

He pointed out HCC was “not alone” as councils across the country have seen a “significant drop in highways funding”.

Cllr Humby said: “Local highway networks are the essential infrastructure that supports local economies and, while government funding for new transport ideas are welcome, it is essential the importance of maintaining the local road network, which supports over 90% of journeys in Hampshire, is properly recognised.

“As we plot a path to economic recovery from the pandemic, this is ever more urgent.”

The A&T asked the Department for Transport for comment.

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