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Mon August 19 2019

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MPs call for action on ‘plague of potholes’

1 Jul Local authorities must be given long-term funding to tackle the extreme state of disrepair of England’s local roads network, says a new report by the Commons select committee on transport.

The MPs said that a front-loaded, five-year funding settlement is essential. The committee’s latest report, Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap, addresses deterioration of the English local road network and the need to plan ahead.

“This plague of potholes is a major headache for everyone,” said the report. “The consequences of a deteriorating local road network are significant. It undermines local economic performance and results in direct costs to taxpayers—either through rising costs of deferred work or through a mend and make do approach that does not represent good value for money in the long-term. It also affects motorists—damaging vehicles—and causes injuries to passengers, particularly those with existing medical conditions.

“The safety of other road users, especially cyclists, is seriously compromised. Pedestrians, particularly those who are older or vulnerable, can be left feeling anxious and isolated, afraid to leave their own homes.

The report says that local government revenue funding has fallen by about 25% since 2010. “With no ring-fencing for local roads funding, cash-strapped authorities have diverted the money to plug other gaps such as social care. Lack of funding certainty has caused many councils to take short-term, reactive decisions on road maintenance, which is less effective than proactive maintenance and undermines local economic performance.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) publishes basic data on road conditions and has begun work on collecting and publishing further data. The committee said that the DfT should make it easier for the public to report road concerns and to access real-time updates on road conditions.

Committee chair Lilian Greenwood MP said: “Local roads are the arteries of our villages, towns and cities, but most people won’t have to go further than the local shops to spot a pothole that poses a risk of injury or damage.

“Local authorities are in the invidious position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul. Cash-strapped councils are raiding their highways and transport budgets to fund core services. This is not an isolated example – it’s been a common thread in our other recent inquiries on buses and active travel. Now is the time for the Department to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming Spending Review.

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“Almost every journey begins and ends on local roads: the DfT must work with the public and local authorities to make them safe.”

Local Government Association transport spokesman Martin Tett said in response to the report: “This report rightly recognises the significant funding pressures councils are under and the detrimental impact this is having on local services such as roads maintenance.

“Councils are fixing a pothole every 17 seconds but need long-term government investment in the Spending Review in local road maintenance to address the nation’s £9.3 billion roads repair backlog.

“Councils have lost 60p out of every £1 in central government funding between 2010 and 2020, and are increasingly having to divert more and more money into meeting rising demand for children’s services, adult social care services and homelessness support.

“It is not right that the Government spends 43 times more per mile on maintaining our national roads – which make up just 3 per cent of all roads – than on local roads, which are controlled by councils and make up 97 per cent of England’s road network.”

Asphalt Industry Alliance chairman Rick Green said: “With our own annual survey highlighting that there is a highway maintenance backlog of more than £9 billion, it’s no surprise that the Transport Select Committee has concluded that the local road network needs investment.

“Local roads are the lifeblood of our economy and communities and we support the Committee’s call for a significant and front-loaded five-year funding settlement for local highway maintenance. We hope the government will heed this call in its forthcoming Spending Review."

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