But the department also says maintenance is "not just about funding".
The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it will lobby the Treasury to provide a “long-term funding settlement” to help councils maintain local roads.
A House of Commons Transport Select Committee report on local roads funding earlier in the year suggested that the DfT should “propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury” so local authorities would be able to “address the historic road maintenance backlog”. That proposal came against the backdrop of an Asphalt Industry Alliance report in the spring, which said the one-time cost of fixing all the potholes in England and Wales would stretch to almost £10 billion.
In its response, which the select committee received earlier this month, the DfT said it would “work closely” with the Treasury and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to make sure the benefits of a longer-term funding settlement for local highways maintenance were “well understood”.
In its statement, the DfT said: “A long-term, consistent funding certainty for local highways maintenance is important to ensure that highway authorities can make effective decisions and to seek efficiencies through the supply chain.”
However the department also pointed out that funding was only part of the measures needed to maintain the nation’s roads. The DfT argued the case for “efficiencies”, including collaborating better with neighbouring authorities and making sure the correct materials are used, as well as using new technology and methods to fix roads.
In summary, the DfT said: “The Department for Transport is currently working on developing a good evidence base to ensure it submits a strong business case to HM Treasury as part of a future Spending Review. As part of this we are also working closely with MHCLG regarding Revenue Support Grant as the Committee advises.”
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils and local authorities, welcomed the news, saying councils needed financial help to invest in infrastructure.
“It is good that the Department for Transport rightly backs our call for long-term roads funding for councils,” said the LGA’s transport spokesman, Cllr Darren Rodwell. “Councils are on the side of all road users and are working hard to try and keep our roads safe and resilient, and despite significant funding pressures, are fixing a pothole every 17 seconds.
“The government’s infrastructure strategy needs to provide stable, devolved infrastructure budgets to councils, in the same way as Highways England and Network Rail. Providing councils with a five-year funding allocation would mean they can invest in road maintenance and other infrastructure projects.”
The RAC also expressed its pleasure at the DfT’s response, saying potholes were among drivers’ top concerns, and changes couldn’t “come soon enough”.
“For many years we have called for local authorities to be given the certainty of long-term funding to improve the roads under their control, so this is very welcome news,” said RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes. “Drivers are still twice as likely to break down as a result of hitting a pothole in 2019 compared to 2006, and substandard roads is regularly one of drivers’ top concerns according to the RAC Report on Motoring - so any changes to improve the situation can’t really come soon enough.”