William Eichler 26 February 2018

Drivers ‘frustrated’ with fall in pothole-fixing funds

Only 15% of drivers say local roads are maintained to a high standard, survey reveals as council chiefs warn of underfunding for local infrastructure.

A new AA poll of over 17,000 people found two thirds of respondents believe motorways are maintained to a high standard and three out of 10 think major roads are maintained to a high standard.

However, more than seven out of 10 (72%) said local roads maintenance is overlooked in favour of motorways and major roads.

Analysis from the AA found the reality matched the perception.

Spending on local authority A-roads has increased 15.2% from £1.240bn in 2015/16 to £1.429bn in 2016/17, they found.

Meanwhile, spending on minor roads is down 10.6% over the same period - £2.088bn in 2015/16 compared to £1.866bn in 2016/17.

The AA’s survey also found support for paying more tax to tackle potholes.

Almost half (49%) of the respondents said they would support a small increase on Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) as long as the additional cash was ring-fenced for upgrading and repairing local roads.

More than two fifths (44%) also said they would support a small increase in fuel duty to help fund maintaining local roads.

AA president Edmund King said road users were ‘getting more and more frustrated’ with the state of local roads.

‘From 2020, all income from VED will be spent on maintaining our motorways and major roads, but there is already a £12bn black hole which local councils need to fill just to get England’s local roads up to scratch,’ he said.

‘Instead of allowing more money to be sucked into this black hole from compensation claims and worsening road deterioration, governments at all levels need to take one small step to tackle the funding problem and deliver smooth highways for road users.

‘As a starting point, the Government could heed the AA’s calls by retaining the freeze on fuel duty, but ring-fence 2 pence per litre from the revenue and hand it straight to councils solely to fix local roads. This would give councils a pot of £1bn.

‘On a local level, councils could release fines income back to the roads they were plundered from.’

Responding to the poll, Cllr Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) transport spokesman, said: ‘Only long-term and consistent investment in local road maintenance can allow councils to embark on the widespread improvement of our roads that is desperately needed, to the benefit of all road users up and down the country.

‘It is therefore wrong that funding for local roads is miles behind that of the strategic road network.

‘Very few journeys begin and end on a motorway or trunk road yet government funding on the strategic road network is 52 times higher than for local roads.

‘Spending more on improving our national roads will only serve to speed vehicles up between increased delays and congestion on local roads.

‘Councils are fixing a pothole every 19 seconds despite funding pressures. They want to do more but are trapped in an endless cycle of patching up our deteriorating network.

‘It would already take £12bn and more than a decade for councils to clear the current local roads repair backlog.’

Cllr Tett also noted he was ‘encouraged’ the AA is supporting the LGA’s proposal for the Government to reinvest 2 pence per litre of existing fuel duty into local road maintenance.

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