Dominic Browne 22 November 2012

LGA demands highways maintenance funding reform

Council chiefs have called for urgent reforms to highways maintenance funding to tackle a £10bn blackhole in road repairs and prevent a national pothole crisis.

In advance of the Autumn Statement on 5 December, the Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the Government to address the ‘decades of under-funding’ in highways maintenance resulting in the current £10bn shortfall.

LGA sources told Surveyor some of the under-spend from across Whitehall departments during 2011-12 – expected to total £6.7bn according to the Treasury – should be channelled into local highways budgets.

Referring to the annual local authority road maintenance (ALARM) survey’s latest figures, chair of the LGA’s economy and transport board Cllr Peter Box said it could now cost around £10bn ‘to bring our roads up to scratch’.

‘Notions that the widespread resurfacing, which is desperately needed, can be paid for by efficiency savings and smarter use of money are pure fantasy. Redirecting funding into road maintenance would offer an instant boost to growth, improve road safety and save billions of pounds.’

Local authorities have improved their highways maintenance in recent years, including reducing the average cost of filling a pothole by 25%. However, highways bosses warned any further funding cuts in December could be ‘catastrophic’ as councils were already struggling following a series of harsh winters and £500m cut to the highways maintenance budget.

The LGA’s warnings were supported by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which represents companies producing and laying the materials for asphalt roads.

Alliance chairman, Alan Mackenzie, said: ‘Unless there is a radical change to the way in which this service is funded – to allow longer term planning and sufficient funds to bring local roads back into a steady state – poor road condition will continue to drain the economy.’

Transport minister Norman Baker said: 'It is ultimately up to local highway authorities to determine how they prioritise their funding and the Department has simplified its funding streams to better enable them to do this. We are also providing £6 million for the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme which is already helping councils work together to deliver a first class service to their residents, at the same time as saving money.’

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