Local authorities are warning that 2017 ‘could be a tipping point year’ for potholes, with new analysis showing the repair bill could reach £14bn within two years – three times more than councils’ combined annual revenue spending on highways and transport.
In a press release issued on 6 January, the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says it is ‘wrong and unfair’ that the Government allocates almost 40 times more to maintaining national roads, which it controls, compared with local roads.
According to statistics from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), the ‘one-time cost’ to get roads in England and Wales back into reasonable condition was £11.8bn in 2016, up from £9.8bn in 2012. The LGA says this figure is projected to rise to £14bn by around 2019 – more than three times local authorities’ combined annual revenue spend on highways and transport (£4.4bn) – which, in addition to highways maintenance, has to cover issues such as the concessionary fares scheme for buses.
The LGA is calling on Government to inject a further £1bn annually into roads maintenance, which it says could be raised by investing just 2p per litre of existing fuel duty. The LGA says previous polling shows that 83% of the population would support this reallocation of funds.
Cllr Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesman, said: “This year could be a tipping point year regarding potholes and councils, who have experienced significant budget reductions, now face the looming prospect of a bill of £14bn to bring the nation’s roads up to scratch.
“It is becoming increasingly urgent to address the roads crisis we face as a nation. Councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds again last year despite significant budget reductions leaving them with less to spend on fixing our crumbling roads.
“Local authorities are proving remarkably efficient in how they use this diminishing funding pot but they remain trapped in a frustrating cycle that will only ever leave them able to patch up our deteriorating roads.”
The RAC says the AIA analysis is a reminder of the ‘dire state’ of local roads and advocates a long-term approach to tackle the crisis.
Nick Lyes, RAC roads policy spokesman,said: “This analysis provides a stark reminder of the dire state of the UK’s local road network and ominously shows that things look set to get worse over the coming years unless urgent action is taken.
“We urge the Government to take a long-term, strategic approach to tackling this crisis, which provides local authorities with greater funding certainty so they can undertake the necessary maintenance and preventative action.”