Local authority leaders have welcomed a Department for Transport commitment to a longer-term funding settlement which could help councils tackle the ‘plague of potholes’ on local roads.
In a report, published in July, the Transport Committee proposed a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement for councils to help them improve the maintenance of local roads.
In response the Department for Transport has promised to press the Treasury for a more sustainable funding settlement.
‘A simple visit to the shops or the regular journey to work can result in injury or damage to someone’s vehicle from the plague of potholes on our local roads. This is an issue that affects everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – every day,’ said chair of the Transport Committee Lilian Greenwood.
‘We therefore welcome the commitment from the Department to work across Government on giving local councils the cash and long-term funding certainty they need to tackle the effects on roads of years of neglect.’
The Local Government Association (LGA) estimates that the Government spends 43 times more per mile on maintaining national roads, which make up just 3% of all roads, than on local roads, which are controlled by councils and make up 97% of England’s road network.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, welcomed the Department for Transport’s response.
‘It is good that the Department for Transport rightly backs our call for long-term roads funding for councils,’ he said.
‘Councils are on the side of all road users and are working hard to try and keep our roads safe and resilient, and despite significant funding pressures, are fixing a pothole every 17 seconds.
‘The Government’s infrastructure strategy needs to provide stable, devolved infrastructure budgets to councils, in the same way as Highways England and Network Rail.
'Providing councils with a five-year funding allocation would mean they can invest in road maintenance and other infrastructure projects.’
According to the annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), there is an average annual shortfall of £4.1m per authority in highways maintenance budgets.
The AIA estimates it would cost £8bn to fix the backlog of local road maintenance issues.
‘We believe that an extra £1bn, each year for 10 years is needed to bring road conditions up to a level from which they can be maintained cost effectively going forward,’ said a spokesperson for AIA.
‘We hope those in control of the purse strings will heed the calls for a significant long-term settlement.’
Darren Shirley, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, described the Department for Transport’s commitment as ‘very welcome’.
‘The poor condition of many local roads is a key concern for drivers, bus passengers, cyclists and pedestrians alike,’ he said.
‘Long-term funding certainty will allow local authorities to plan maintenance and repairs confidently and cost-effectively.’
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: ‘For many years we have called for local authorities to be given the certainty of long-term funding to improve the roads under their control, so this is very welcome news.
‘Drivers are still twice as likely to break down as a result of hitting a pothole in 2019 compared to 2006, and substandard roads is regularly one of drivers’ top concerns according to the RAC Report on Motoring – so any changes to improve the situation can’t really come soon enough.’