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Roads (Expenditure)

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is the present capital limit on road works which may be carried out by local authorities; when it was set; if it is the intention of his Department to raise this limit; and, if so, to what level.

No limit for capital works on roads for which local authorities are the highway authorities is imposed by my Department. Local authorities do, however, need to have regard to the financial resources available to them.Local authorities are also employed as the Secretary of State's agents for carrying out those trunk road schemes which are generally the responsibility, within the Department, of Regional Controllers (Roads and Transportation). Such schemes cost up to £1½ million and exceptionally up to £3 million, but these limits are kept under review.Trunk road schemes of greater value are usually undertaken by the road construction units which were set up for this purpose. A substantial proportion of the staff of the units is provided by local highway authorities.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what action he has taken to secure reductions in capital expenditure on roads and local transport as part of the general reductions in public expenditure announced in December last.

The Government decided last December to reduce English trunk road construction by about £40 million in 1977–78 and in 1978–79, and local transport expenditure by about £25 million in 1977–78. The savings have been ensured by a moratorium on all new contracts, which has led to deferment of expenditure on many major trunk road schemes, and by an adjustment to the loan sanction allocation to local authorities. From this position I am now able to secure the full amount of the announced savings while rearranging the starting dates for new schemes so that contracts for certain schemes, where there are strong arguments for an early start, can now be let as soon as the necessary procedures have been completed. I am grateful to the local authorities who have cooperated so fully in securing the required savings.