A report by MPs has described funding for the road network as “not fit for purpose”.
The Transport Committee report claims funding is inadequate and not allocated efficiently or effectively. It says that local government revenue funding has fallen by about 25% since 2010 and is often used by councils to plug gaps in other budgets.
Government funding is sporadic and time-limited which has caused many councils to take short-term, reactive decisions on road maintenance, which is more expensive and less effective than proactive maintenance that can be planned well in advance and the cost spread out over a number of years.
The cost to deal with this huge road maintenance backlog has been valued at £9.8 billion by the Asphalt Industry Alliance – that’s approximately £70 million per authority in England and £32 million per London authority.
Potholes are a headache for everyone and a severe risk for many, says the report. A deteriorating local road network 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 damages vehicles and causes injuries to passengers, particularly those with existing medical conditions.
The Chair of the Transport Committee, 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.
“Almost every journey begins and ends on local roads: the DfT must work with the public and local authorities to make them safe.”
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We warmly welcome the findings of this report, which recognises the means of funding roads under council control is as broken as many local roads are themselves, and that a new approach is badly needed.
“While it is good that major roads are seeing significant levels of investment, the same can’t be said for all the others and surely, in 2019 it shouldn’t be the case that a driver can switch from a major A-road to a minor road and see an immediate degradation in surface quality.
“Not putting enough money into fixing the UK’s local roads is a false economy. In doing so, an unnecessary burden is being placed on councils. And then, when roads inevitably fail and need emergency attention, we all end up paying through taxes for short-term repairs that don’t sort out the problem in the long term. So it’s high time local roads were recognised for what they are – a significant piece of national infrastructure that serves a vitally important role in terms of connecting communities and linking people to their workplaces, which ultimately helps drive the economy.
“If just 2p of the existing 58p fuel duty charged on every litre of petrol or diesel sold was ring-fenced, over five years nearly £5bn of additional funds would be raised which would go a long way towards fixing the country’s roads properly as opposed to the current practice of patching up individual potholes.”
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