New statistics out this week show the growing backlog means that councils together are facing a £14bn local road repair bill in the next two years. That is more than three times as much as the total highways spend.
How much does your authority pay out on claims from accidents caused by unrepaired potholes? Is your authority facing a £69m cost in road repairs, to bring them up to a reasonable condition?*
New statistics out this week show the growing backlog means that councils together are facing a £14bn local road repair bill in the next two years. That is more than three times as much as the total highways spend. Yet, the Government is spending 40 times more per mile on the 3 percent of trunk roads than investment in local roads^.
Traffic is set to increase by over half as much again (55%) by 2040, when council budgets are expected to have fallen significantly and be under ever greater pressure from adult care.
As we well know, long term underfunding of road surfaces and increased heavy traffic has resulted in a constant battle repairing potholes, which pose a risk to all road users, whether on a bicycle, bus or any other vehicle.
The LGA has called on the Government to contribute a further £1bn to road maintenance, by reinvesting just 2p in the £ of the current fuel duty.
Today we received the response. The Minister, Andrew Jones MP has announced £1.2bn for Roads and Transport in 2017/8, in an itemised way based on several ring-fenced pots, presumably matching their separate ministerial announcements. This function is devolved in Wales and London, so this is the money passed to English Councils outside of London:
- £801m to help improve the condition of local roads and £70m to help repair over 1.3 million potholes from the Pothole Action Fund.
- Competing Bids are invited from Councils for £75m to repair and maintain local highway infrastructure, such as bridges, lighting and rural roads (Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund).
- A further £75m is for a self-assessment to ensure we "truly understand the value of the highways assets."
The Government previously announced in the Autumn Statement, £1.3bn improvement in highways funding over the life of the parliament. £210m of the money announced today comes from that "National Productivity Investment". Of the £210m, £185 million will be allocated in 2017/18 to local authorities to improve highways and public transport networks while the remaining £25m will be available to help tackle some of the most dangerous A roads.
The LGA has worked hard on this and welcomes the desperately needed new funds, though of course, it goes nowhere near tackling the root of the problem. Some local initiatives include self-repair in Devon, and even personal naming of "pet" potholes and the use of very mobile "hot boxes" for a faster, effective repair. Many Councils have digitalised their inbox and use the "fix my street" app to streamline receipt of complaints and then use IT to improve the efficiency of repairs done and to reduce staff. The minister is now also supporting a trial in Thurrock and York Councils, where a sensor is attached to bin lorries to identify poor road surfaces where potholes are about to appear!
What we really need, as we know, is to reduce road transport where possible and keep the roads in good maintenance so that potholes don't appear in the first place!
If you have some good initiatives that have been effective, please let us know so we can share some useful case studies.
* According to the 2016 ALARM survey, the average English authority faces a £69 million estimated one-time cost to brings its road up to a reasonable condition.
^ By 2020, the Government will invest more than £1.1 million per mile in maintaining national roads, representing 3 per cent of all total roads. In contrast, there is £27,000 per mile investment in maintaining local roads, which are controlled by councils and make up 97 per cent of England's road network (LGA).