HIGHWAYS Agency figures last week revealed it has spent nearly £300 million less on capital roads investment this year than in the previous 12 months.
In its annual report the HA has highlighted an investment of £437 million, which is well short of the £733 million spent on capital projects last year.
A spokeswoman for the operator said: 'In 2003-04, the Agency was allocated a resource-based capital budget of £650,881,000, of which it incurred £437,758,000.
'In 2002-03, the Agency was allocated a resource-based capital budget of £670,403,000 of which it incurred £733,737,000.'
The agency denied that the two figures were directly comparable and said that changes in its accounting methods concerning compulsory purchase orders had distorted the figures.
The report also accepted that the HA failed to hit more than a third of its targets for the year. It missed four of its 11 ministerial objectives and three of its eight managerial goals, to record a total of seven out of 19 failings.
And the HA slipped behind again on the £35 million A482 Pant-Llanymynech project in Powys, which featured in last year's missed milestones.
The report said the HA delayed the project 'to allow schemes with greater congestion and safety to be carried out' But some contractors fear the worst.One said: 'The scheme is dependent on the Government putting its hand in its pocket and stumping up the cash.Without that it could be dead and buried.'
Delays also occurred on the completion of the A120 Stansted-Braintree improvement near Chelmsford in Essex due to utilities re-routing and bad weather.
Draft orders for the A11 Fiveways-Thetford were held back, while the neighbouring A11 Attleborough bypass in Norfolk is also behind schedule.
The agency also failed in its attempt to pay 98 per cent of invoices to contractors within 30 days of the due date. In the first half of the year only 81.6 per cent were being paid on time. A second half improvement pulled this figure up to 87 per cent.