Motorists will have to spend more repairing their cars because cuts to road maintenance budgets will lead to more potholes and vehicle damage, the Public Accounts Committee has warned. (Telegraph).
Local authorities, who are responsible for 90% of the country’s road network, have been told to find £223m from their roads maintenance budget. But it is unclear how these savings – equivalent to 40% of the total – will be found, the Public Accounts Committee has warned in a report published on 13 March.
Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chairman, said: “The Department (for Transport) doesn’t fully understand what impact its cuts to road maintenance will have on the state of the UK’s roads.
“My committee is concerned that short-term budget cutting could prove counterproductive, costing more in the long term as a result of increased vehicle damage and the higher cost of repairing the more severe road damage.”
According to the Committee, the Highways Agency, which is responsible for major roads – about 10% of the total – has had to pay £2.5m in compensation for vehicle damage and personal injury.
The DfT has said it hopes to make savings through less frequent and more intensive maintenance, according to the Telegraph report.
The Committee went on to say: “There is a risk that these short-term cuts could lead to increased expenditure over the medium to long term if roads deteriorate and insurance claims increase.
“The overall costs will not reduce in the long term if deterioration of the road network results in higher costs repairs in future, and there are more claims on the Department and local authorities for vehicle damage.
“For example, we are concerned that the Department has not estimated the costs of meeting potential extra claims.
“The Department should monitor road conditions closely with a view to avoiding increased future costs; and it should publish regular assessments which detail where it sees particular risks and how it plans to mitigate them.”
An AA spokesman endorsed the report’s findings, saying: “If the road network is allowed to deteriorate in the long term it will cost an awful lot more. Potholes breed potholes and a poor road surface will fail the next time it comes under stress. That is likely to be the next time we have a bad winter.”
Norman Baker, transport minister, said: “I recognise there is an ongoing need for highways maintenance that can’t be fixed overnight, however we are providing £3bn to councils for road maintenance between 2011 and 2015 which is more in cash terms than the previous four years – as well as investing £6m for longer term strategies. We also gave them generous windfall handouts last year following the severe winter which caused major problems.”
Click here to read the full Telegraph report.