Are British roads getting worse? Councils struggle to fund £10 billion pothole plague
An "extreme state of disrepair" has been revealed by a new report condemning the deteriorating local road network in the UK
The cost of a one-time catch-up to deal with this huge road maintenance backlog has been valued at a staggering £9.8 billion by the Asphalt Industry Alliance1 – that’s approximately £70 million per authority in England and £32 million per London authority.
An upfront, five-year funding settlement is the only way cash-strapped local authorities will be able to address our pothole-ridden roads and plan ahead, says the Transport Committee who published the report.
Potholes are a headache for everyone and a severe risk for many, says the report. A deteriorating local road network undermines local economic performance and results in direct costs to taxpayers, either through rising costs of deferred work or through a mend and make do approach that does not represent good value for money in the long-term. It also damages vehicles and causes injuries to passengers, particularly those with existing medical conditions.
The safety of other road users, especially cyclists, is also seriously compromised. Pedestrians and those who are older or vulnerable, can be left feeling anxious and isolated, discouraged to leave their own homes.
Squeezed funding priorities
However, local government revenue funding has fallen by about 25% since 2010. With no ring-fencing for local roads funding, struggling authorities have diverted the money to plug other gaps such as social care.
Lack of funding certainty has caused many councils to take short-term, reactive decisions on road maintenance, which is less effective than proactive maintenance and undermines local economic performance.
The Committee warns that extracting a five-year settlement from the Treasury should not be an excuse to cut funding. The exact nature of the settlement should be developed following consultation with local authorities to ensure the funding is designed in a way that will be most useful for them, says the report. It should encourage innovation, collaboration and good practice.
The Department for Transport (DfT) publishes basic data on road conditions and has begun work on collecting and publishing further data. The Committee believes that the DfT should make it easier for the public to report road concerns and to access real-time updates on road conditions.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said:
“We warmly welcome the findings of this report, which recognises the means of funding roads under council control is as broken as many local roads are themselves, and that a new approach is badly needed.
“While it is good that major roads are seeing significant levels of investment, the same can’t be said for all the others and surely, in 2019 it shouldn’t be the case that a driver can switch from a major A-road to a minor road and see an immediate degradation in surface quality.
“Not putting enough money into fixing the UK’s local roads is a false economy. In doing so, an unnecessary burden is being placed on councils. And then, when roads inevitably fail and need emergency attention, we all end up paying through taxes for short-term repairs that don’t sort out the problem in the long term. So it’s high time local roads were recognised for what they are – a significant piece of national infrastructure that serves a vitally important role in terms of connecting communities and linking people to their workplaces, which ultimately helps drive the economy.
“We look forward to the Government’s response to this report and any action it plans on taking as a result, and we urge it to put forward a five-year investment plan.
“If just 2p of the existing 58p fuel duty charged on every litre of petrol or diesel sold was ring-fenced, over five years nearly £5bn of additional funds would be raised which would go a long way towards fixing the country’s roads properly as opposed to the current practice of patching up individual potholes.
“Fundamentally, the report reinforces what drivers have been telling us for some time: that too many local roads are in a woeful state. Indeed, last year drivers told us that the state of these roads was their biggest overall motoring concern. Potholed roads can not only land drivers with a hefty repair bill, they also represent a serious safety risk for anyone on two wheels.”
To view the original article, from the RAC, please visit them here.