The money lost from council road budgets this year would pay to fill almost 10 million potholes, according to the organisation representing local authorities in England and Wales. Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) found councils’ road budgets for 2021/22 have been slashed to £1.39 billion.
The LGA claims that’s a reduction of £400 million, or 22 percent. And the organisation says that money would pay to fill around 9.5 million potholes, or 64,000 in every local authority’s jurisdiction.
According to the LGA, councils have made road repairs a “top priority”, having repaired a pothole every 19 seconds on average during the pandemic. And the organisation also acknowledged the government’s Pothole Repair Fund, which “supported local roads maintenance”.
However, councils are now calling on the government to use the Spending Review to “plug” this year’s gap in the budget by committing an additional £500 million a year to road repairs. That would bring the total annual local roads maintenance over the £1.8 billion mark.
Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s transport spokesperson, said the state of the roads would be vital in the government’s plan to “level up” and reduce emissions.
“The ability of councils to improve local transport connectivity and infrastructure, including upgrades to local bus, road and cycle infrastructure, is critical to government ambitions to level up the country, reduce carbon emissions from transport, and support our long-term economic recovery from the pandemic,” he said. “Councils are working hard to keep our roads safe and resilient, repairing potholes as quickly as they can.
“However, it would already take £10 billion and more than a decade to clear the current local roads repair backlog, with the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellation of key planned works risking extending this backlog further.
“With long-term and consistent investment in local road maintenance in the Spending Review, councils can embark on the widespread improvement of our roads that is desperately needed, to the benefit of all road users up and down the country, including cyclists.”
And the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said the government should “see local roads as a strategic asset” and called on the authorities to ring-fence money from fuel duty to repair the roads.
“RAC research shows that the condition and maintenance of local roads is the top concern for drivers,” he said. “For years, local authorities have been working with wafer-thin budgets and it’s now time for the Government to see local roads as the strategic asset they really are. We continue to call on the Treasury to ring-fence a proportion of existing fuel duty revenues for local road maintenance. With guaranteed funding, councils would be able to better plan their maintenance schedules and focus not only on reactive repairs but on preventing their roads from crumbling.”