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Councils call for ring-fenced funding to tackle congestion

Date: 21 August 2017   |   Author: Daniel Puddicombe

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the central government to give authorities more powers and long-term funding certainties in order to tackle rising costs associated with an increase in congestion and road maintenance issues.

The group, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, urged the government to provide long-term consistent funding to councils in line with national agencies such as Highways England and Network Rail.

It also wants councils outside of London to given the same amount of powers that boroughs enjoy, in order to target "notoriously congested stretches of road".

The call for funding comes as the LGA publishes its new whitepaper, 'A country in a jam: tackling congestion in our towns and cities', which claims the average motorist wastes £968 and spends 4.9 days a year stuck in traffic because of congestion. Its report also warned that congestion "is no longer just threatening our environment and the quality of our air, but is also becoming a drain on the economy and productivity", forecasting congestion could cost the economy £300 billion a year by 2030 - a tenfold increase of the current costs of £30 billion a year.

Traffic levels are also forecast to rise by up to 55% by 2040, the LGA said, putting further strains on an already under-funded network - it is estimated by the group there is currently a £12 billion roads repair backlog.

According to a report published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), the annual repair bill could top £14 billion in two years' time. At the time of the report being published, the LGA claimed this 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 14.0 years in 2016, with each council fixing an average 12,000 potholes a year.

"Congestion can have a significant impact on our towns, cities and communities, and act as a drag on local growth. Worse still, it can lead to toxic air and reduced quality of life," said Councillor Judith Blake, LGA transport spokesperson. "When the average motorist is spending a working week every year sat in traffic on major roads, and losing almost £1,000 in the process, it's clear that councils need to be able to do more to tackle this growing problem.

"Councils are working hard to combat traffic and congestion. But they need long-term consistent funding to invest in local roads, and greater powers to solve the problem and introduce attractive alternatives to car journeys, such as through public transport, walking and cycling. This will help those that need to use the roads as well as those that have to live with the consequences of congestion."