Fleet News

Labour warns Potholes could cost as much as £13 billion to repair

Potholes on England's roads could cost as much as £13 billion to repair after the recent bad winters, Labour has warned.

And the state of the roads is set to get even worse, with the survey of local authorities by Labour's transport team also finding that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) cutting road maintenance budgets as a result of the funding squeeze imposed by the Conservative-led government.

John Woodcock MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Minister, said in response to the new evidence: "Potholes frustrate road users more than anything and it's clear that the Tory-led government has no serious long term plan to get our roads back into shape.

"These new figures reveal the worsening state of England's roads as a result of the government's cuts - potholes have become a £13 billion problem under the Tories. Motorists and cyclists are already furious that Ministers have pretended to give councils extra money to repair potholes when all they've done is replace a fraction of the £432 million they had axed from road maintenance budgets.

"Instead of continually patching up knackered road surfaces with a bucket of tar we need a proper strategic plan for local roads which could save tax-payers money a fortune in the long term. What is needed is a radical look at new funding models, councils working together and better engagement with the private sector to tackle this problem."

Information was obtained from 111 local authorities, which represents 73 per cent of all authorities with highway maintenance responsibility in England.

The total repair backlog of the 40 per cent of authorities who were able to make estimates came to £5.36 billion. That would translate into a £13.4 billion across the country if roads in other areas were in a similar state of disrepair.

92 per cent of authorities who responded reported having a backlog of road repairs which they did not currently have the budget to make good.

Seventeen local authorities reported individual backlogs of £100 million or more, with three county councils having backlogs in excess of £400 million , up to £450 million in the case of Devon County Council.

Figures received from local authorities show that a majority of those responding are, in cash terms, cutting the amount spent on road maintenance between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 financial years, and that almost three quarters are cutting in real terms .

A quarter of local authorities who responded reported that they have made, or are considering, changes to the levels at which they intervene to repair potholes and other road defects:

  • In Merton, at the end of 2010/11, finances were so constrained that only emergency repairs were being undertaken.
  • Dorset County Council admitted that prioritisation of repairs is "disadvantaging the lowest priority of roads", such as residential roads.
  • Lambeth Council now only intervenes when potholes reach 40mm in depth, rather than 25mm, and has cut inspections from every four months to every six months.
  • Bolton Council said it was cutting inspection frequencies and intervention levels.
  • Kirklees noted that it was shifting to cheaper treatments which "will naturally increase the backlog of repairs in future years."
  • Sunderland Council said it was changing its priority from resurfacing full roads to targeted pothole repairs.

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