Comment

06.01.17

Greater investment and collaboration needed to tackle pothole repair backlog

Source: PSE Dec/Jan 17

Cllr Martin Tett, leader of Buckinghamshire County Council and transport spokesman at the LGA, reflects on the ever-growing pothole repair backlog and what actions must be taken to tackle this issue.

As leader of a county council, I am acutely aware that potholes and the condition of our roads are one of the public’s main local concerns. Every politician in the country cares about potholes. From cabinet ministers to parish councillors, everyone who stands for election will have been told by constituents about potholes on their road. It is one of the most visible and obvious problems that we are asked to deal with. Despite the fact that potholes are an unending battle, councils do a lot, and with the help of government and utilities providers we could do more. 

Potholes have a huge impact on our society above and beyond making our road surface uneven. Left untreated, potholes will continue to grow and will break up road surfaces. This in turn damages vehicles, and leads to slower journey times. This can result in lost productivity for the economy as a whole. There is also a direct cost to councils, who had to spend £13.5m on pothole compensation last year. 

Councils fixed 2.2 million potholes last year – that’s a pothole every 15 seconds, despite significant budget reductions. Local authorities are proving remarkably efficient in how we use our diminishing funding pot, but we remain trapped in a frustrating cycle that will only ever leave us able to patch up those roads that are inadequate. According to recent research from the asphalt industry, it would take 14 years to clear the repair backlog in England and Wales and 65 years to resurface our entire road network. The average highway maintenance budget per local authority has fallen by 16% last year meaning the backlog is growing all the time. 

Urgent investment needed 

We urgently need to boost the amount that is invested in our local road networks. Over the remaining years of the decade, government will invest over £1.1m per mile in maintaining national roads, which make up just 3% of all total roads. This level of investment contrasts starkly with the £27,000 per mile councils receive from government to invest in maintaining local roads, which account for 97% of England’s road network. Potholes cost an average of £64 each to repair, so you can see how thinly spread council money has become. 

Last year, the previous chancellor announced an extra government Pothole Action Fund of £250m spread over the next five years. This is a step in the right direction, but in reality it is inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem. The fund is divided amongst all the country’s highways authorities. That means an average of less than £350,000 per authority per year. This is not even enough to stand still. 

The LGA is calling for the government to treat local roads on a par with the strategic roads network (motorways and major trunk roads as run by Highways England), which from 2020 will get all of its funding from income received through Vehicle Excise Duty. By investing just 2p of existing fuel duty payments into local roads, we can clear the £12bn backlog of repairs. Our polling shows that 83% of the population would support a small amount of the existing billions they pay the Treasury each year in fuel duty being reinvested to help councils bring our roads up to scratch. Virtually every journey on the strategic roads network starts and ends on local roads – it makes little economic sense that the investment we make in local and national roads is so starkly different. 

Greater collaboration required 

It’s not enough for us to just spend more money. We need to ensure that councils and the utility companies work closely together. Every time the road surface is opened to put in new utilities, it is weakened. This means that even when works promoters do a good job in restoring the road after roadworks, it is still weaker than when they started. 

Repairing and installing utilities is obviously vital and necessary work, but by working more closely together utility providers could collaborate with councils and each other to reduce the number of times that roads are opened – as well as ensuring that scheduled works dovetail with when councils will be resurfacing the road anyway. Greater collaboration will help us get more work done with fewer sets of roadworks. It will reduce congestion and protect our road surfaces. 

Everyone can see the road surface outside their home and everyone can see a cracked potholed road. The obvious nature of the problem is why the public constantly bring it up with us politicians. However, it also means that when we fix the road surface the public can see that local government is dealing with their problems and making their street a better place to live. It sends out a clear signal to local people that we care about them and their daily lives and we haven’t forgotten the little things. That’s why it’s so vital we work together to help combat the scourge of potholes.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Richard   30/01/2017 at 13:03

Don't forget that potholes can also cause death and serious injury to cyclists and motorcyclists. 'Cyclist killed after being thrown into road 'by a pothole that was filled in days later' was the headline a year ago.

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Almost all council websites now optimised for mobile devices

26/05/2017Almost all council websites now optimised for mobile devices

Almost all local councils have now repurposed their websites to present a responsive or mobile site when accessed on a smartphone. In a surv... more >
Manchester leaders thank public for £4.1m donations to attack fund

26/05/2017Manchester leaders thank public for £4.1m donations to attack fund

Local leaders in Manchester have heaped praise on the public after £4.1m was raised in support of survivors of the terrorist attack on Mond... more >
Charity develops £4.5m fund to tackle homelessness

25/05/2017Charity develops £4.5m fund to tackle homelessness

A social investment fund worth £4.5m has this week been launched by charity Homeless Link to tackle the issue in local areas. The fund... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

A watershed moment in British democracy

02/05/2017A watershed moment in British democracy

The upcoming mayoral elections represent a watershed moment in the history of British democracy, reports PSE’s Luana Salles.  On 4 May, voters across six regions will take to the polls to decide who should captain their public services until 2020.  As part of the elections, the DCLG has kick-started the ‘Our May... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

interviews

Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

25/04/2017Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

Ahead of this year’s mayoral elections, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, tells PSE’s David Stevenson why the argu... more >
New social care funding misses the point

13/04/2017New social care funding misses the point

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, reflects on the social care funding released in this year’s ... more >
Leading transformational change through procurement

01/03/2017Leading transformational change through procurement

Liz Welton, chair of the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government (SOPO), tells PSE’s David Stevenson why there are lots of oppo... more >
McMahon: I worry that the public are not part of the devolution conversation

20/12/2016McMahon: I worry that the public are not part of the devolution conversation

Jim McMahon, Labour’s shadow minister for local government and devolution, talks to PSE’s David Stevenson about the need to radically... more >

last word

Collaborative working is the key to the future at home and abroad

Collaborative working is the key to the future at home and abroad

David Hawkins, operations director at the Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW), on why ISO 44001 is a new evolution in collaborative working. The past 12 months have seen seismic change... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

11/04/2017A watershed moment in British politics

The government has now officially triggered Article 50, formally starting the process of Britain’s exit from the EU. How this will affect local government, the wider public sector and the Civil Service remains to be seen, but the likelihood of it being plain sailing with the enormity of the task ahead seems rather unlikely.  It... read more >

public sector focus

G-Cloud 9: Choosing the right supplier for your cloud communications

24/05/2017G-Cloud 9: Choosing the right supplier for your cloud communications

James Passingham, chief technical officer at ... more >
Improving engagement and trust

28/04/2017Improving engagement and trust

Tracie Evans, chief operating officer at Hari... more >