A ‘front-loaded’, five-year funding settlement is the only way local authorities will be able to address a deteriorating local roads network and plan ahead, says the Transport Select Committee.
The Committee’s latest report, Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap, addresses ‘the extreme state of disrepair of the English local road network’. It identifies a drop in local government revenue funding of around 25% since 2010, resulting in funds for local roads no longer being ring-fenced. As a result ‘cash-strapped authorities have diverted their highways and transport budgets to fund core services’.
The findings state that a deteriorating local road network undermines local economic performance, results in direct costs to taxpayers, damages vehicles and causes injuries to passengers, ‘particularly those with existing medical conditions’.
The chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said:”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.”
Rick Green, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, 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."
Fleets are increasingly absorbing the costs of deteriorating road surfaces, with pothole-related breakdowns on the rise.
Christopher Snelling, head of UK Policy at FTA, added: “As the business organisation representing the logistics sector, FTA fully supports the Transport Select Committee’s calls for a five-year pothole repair fund; the road network has been subject to chronic underinvestment for many years. Taxes on UK road transport are the highest in Europe, yet our roads continue to be underfunded; HGVs alone pay enough tax to pay for more than 90 per cent of the current amount spent on road maintenance in the UK. Large potholes are an all too common sight – costing businesses in the logistics industry millions of pounds a year in vehicle repair and hire replacement. Potholes are dangerous to cyclists as well as damaging to vehicles; it is ridiculous that we still have this problem in today’s Britain.
“While this funding would play a vital role in improving the nation’s road network, it would not offer a complete solution; estimates show it would cost £9.79 billion and take ten years for highways departments in England and Wales to catch up on the road repairs needed*. This investment must be viewed as part of a more comprehensive, long-term road improvement strategy.”