Latest Public Sector News

09.09.15

Long-term road repairs impossible without ‘consistent’ funding – LGA

Long-term local road repairs will be impossible to carry out unless the government increases the budget for it, the LGA has warned.

Cllr Peter Box, transport spokesman for the association representing councils across England in Wales, said the £1.2bn backlog of road repairs would take councils more than a decade to clear, squeezing out opportunities for anything beyond patching up roads.

He said: “Current funding levels mean councils are only able to keep pace with patching up our roads and filling potholes rather than carrying out more cost-effective and long-term improvements.

“Long-term and consistent investment in local road maintenance is desperately needed in the Spending Review to improve road conditions for motorists and cycles.”

The warning comes after the latest RAC Report on Motoring 2015 revealed that the state of local roads tops the list of British drivers’ concerns.

The study found that half of the 1,555 surveyed drivers think the state of roads has deteriorated over the last year, and the RAC cautioned that the problem is likely to get worse.

Drivers from south-west England and Scotland were the most worried about road conditions, with nearly one in five ranking it as their main worry.

One in three respondents said more of the government’s transport spend should go on local road maintenance than anything else, as well as targeted local road upgrades including reducing bottlenecks and enhancing safety.

David Bizley, the RAC’s chief engineer, said: “Motorists clearly want the government to provide sufficient funding to ensure local roads are maintained properly. But while any central government money given to local authorities for roads must be spent on roads, we also need councils to spend more of their own funds on repairing and replacing road surfaces.

“Currently, this is a challenge as they are under specific legal obligation to provide minimum standards in education and social services whereas their obligations to maintain roads are far less prescriptive.

“This significant and damaging disconnection between what a large proportion of council tax payers want local government to spend their money on and where it is actually going is at least in part a result of the inconsistent way in which central government devolves spending decisions to local authorities.”

Responding to the RAC’s comments, Box said: “While councils share the frustration of motorists at the state of our roads, it is impossible to compare repairing potholes with keeping children safe and caring for our elderly.

“With demand on these life and death services continuing to rise and funding from central government continuing to reduce, councils have little choice but to squeeze budgets for other services, such as maintaining our roads.”

He added that councils fixed more potholes “than ever before” last year and that keeping roads safe is “one of the most important jobs” they do.

Yet Bizley added that being able to boast the success of filling potholes is a “measure of the problem”, as most potholes develop “because of a lack of preventive maintenance”.

He added: “We urge the government to follow the recommendations of the coalition government’s Pothole Review to ensure that the funds allocated to local roads maintenance are used for preventative maintenance of roads rather than just on short term remedial repairs.”

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