Pothole repair budget faces funding shortfall
10 January 2017
Author: Daniel Puddicombe
A major consortium of councils has warned this year could be a "tipping point" for potholes, whereby there are more of them than there is money to fund repairs, on the back of new research which has suggested the overall repair bill could top £14bn in two years' time.
According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance's annual Alarm survey, the annual repair bill has been steadily growing. In 2012, the total was £9.8bn, rising to £11.8bn last year.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, claimed the projected £14bn figure is three times more than councils' entire annual highways and transport budget, which has to cover issues such as highways maintenance and funding concessionary bus fares.
Furthermore, the LGA estimated the time it will take to fill in the potholes has risen from 10.9 years in 2006 to 14 years in 2016, with each council fixing an average 12,000 potholes a year.
"Most journeys begin and end on a local road so good-quality local roads are essential for motorists and businesses alike," said RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes.
The councils body has called on the Government to help out by injecting a further £1bn a year into roads budgets by investing 2p per litre of existing fuel duty prices.
The LGA also claims between now and 2020 the Government will invest more than £1.1m per mile to maintain national networks, which make up 3% of all roads, compared with the £27,000 per mile figure for local roads, which make up the remaining 97% of England's network.
"It is wrong and unfair that the Government allocates almost 40 times more to maintaining national roads, which it controls, compared with local roads, which are overseen by councils. It is paramount this funding discrepancy is swiftly plugged," said Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesman. "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," Tett added.
Thanks to reduced levels of funding, Devon County Council launched a pilot scheme for volunteers to complete minor pothole repairs in April 2016.
The 'road wardens' in Broadclyst, Bradford and Crookbury, Clyst Hydon, Plymtree and Sidmouth are provided with repair materials to patch up small potholes in their parishes and towns.
"The idea is to fill the potholes before they get too big and become major safety issues that can do damage, so that hopefully they won't need a full repair. A stitch in time saves nine," said Andrew Cook, Plymtree Parish Council chairman.