The Government has acknowledged the importance of a long-term funding settlement to help councils improve the condition of local roads.
Responding to a Transport Committee inquiry into the funding and governance of local roads in England, the DfT says “long-term consistent funding certainty for local highways maintenance is important to ensure that highway authorities can make effective decisions”.
The DfT is currently working on developing a “good evidence base” to ensure it submits a “strong business case” to HM Treasury as part of a future spending review.
Figures published by the DfT earlier this month show the condition of local authority managed roads has remained ‘stable’ in recent years.
The report highlights that in 2018/19, 3% of local authority ‘A’ roads (including motorways) were categorised as red – meaning they ‘should have been considered for maintenance’.
In addition, 6% of ‘B’ and ‘C’ roads also fell into that category.
At the time, the RAC said local authorities lack the certainty of long-term funding to make real improvements to their road networks.
In response to the Transport Committee inquiry, the DfT agreed that local highways maintenance should be viewed over the long-term – to allow authorities to plan their maintenance programmes.
However, the DfT also says improving and maintaining the condition of the local road network is “not just about funding”, stressing the importance of collaboration between neighbouring authorities and making use of new technologies.
The RAC has welcomed the suggestion that a longer-term funding settlement for councils may be on the cards.
Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, 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.”