Councils face £11.8bn bill to bring roads up to scratch

23 Mar 16

The total repair backlog on the local road network in England and Wales fell slightly in the last year, but still stands at £11.8bn according to the annual survey of local authorities.

The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, undertaken by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, found the total one-time cost to get roads in England and Wales back into reasonable condition was down slightly from the £12.2bn estimated in the 2015 survey.

However, AIA chair Alan Mackenzie said the total amount of the backlog continued to show decades of underfunding had taken its toll on local roads.

“The network is ageing and the cumulative effect of decades of underfunding is continuing to take its toll. Add in the impacts of flooding and increased traffic and you start to appreciate the scale of the problem our local authorities are facing,” he stated.
Despite the government’s commitment to boost local road maintenance funding by £6bn, the review found this had not yet reached local highways departments. Funding for roads departments in England fell by 16% in 2015/16 according to the survey.

As a result, the average budget shortfalls – the difference between the money highways teams need to keep the carriageway in reasonable order and the amount they actually receive – actually rose by almost 50% in the year, from £3.2m last year to £4.6m.

Responding to the ALARM survey, Local Government Association transport spokesman Peter Box said it was becoming increasingly urgent to address what he called a national roads crisis.

“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,” he stated.

“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.

“Councils share the frustration of motorists having to pay to drive on roads that are often inadequate. 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.”

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