The Department for Transport is pushing the Treasury to guarantee local road funding for several years at a time instead of annually.
The DfT argues that the annual cycle doesn’t allow councils to plan and implement the maintenance of their roads before potholes develop. It wants to see “the benefits of a longer-term funding settlement for local highways maintenance”.
In July, the Transport Select Committee published a report that described the state of local roads in England and Wales as a “national scandal”, with poor-quality roads responsible for causing damage costing almost £1 billion to vehicles, and injuring more than 70 cyclists, every year. It is estimated that it would cost around £12 billion to bring these roads back to a decent standard.
The DfT says: “A multiyear settlement could support prudential borrowing by providing local authorities with greater budget certainty. A long-term consistent funding certainty is important to ensure that highway authorities can make effective decisions and to seek efficiencies through the supply chain.”
Lillian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, welcomed the DfT’s proposal, saying: “A simple visit to the shops or the regular journey to work can result in injury or damage to someone’s vehicle from the plague of potholes on our local roads. This is an issue that affects everyone — pedestrians, cyclists and drivers — every day.
“We therefore welcome the commitment from the department to work across government on giving local councils the cash and long-term funding certainty they need to tackle the effects on roads of years of neglect.”
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, commented: “For years, local councils have been crying out for more funds to help tackle the state of their roads.
“The nation’s roads are slowly improving, but under current spending plans it would take English and Welsh councils a decade just to get back to a standing start. This summer, eight out of 10 drivers said potholes were causing problems in their area.
“Consistent funding and a more prominent focus on resurfacing roads would be better for road users than a patchwork of filled potholes.”
Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, added: “For many years, we have called for local authorities to be given the certainty of long-term funding to improve the roads under their control, so this is very welcome news.
“Drivers are still twice as likely to break down as a result of hitting a pothole in 2019 compared to 2006, and substandard roads is regularly one of drivers’ top concerns according to the RAC Report on Motoring, so any changes to improve the situation can’t really come soon enough.”