MPs have called for a front-loaded, five-year funding settlement to tackle the ‘extreme state of disrepair of the English local road network’.
A new report from the Transport Select Committee, Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap, describes potholes as ‘a headache for everyone and a severe risk for many’.
MPs said that 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’.
Committee chair 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.’
She added: ‘Now is the time for the Department [for Transport] to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming Spending Review.’
MPs warned however that extracting a five-year settlement from the Treasury should not be an excuse to cut funding, arguing that the exact nature of the settlement should be developed following consultation with local authorities to ensure the funding is designed in a way that will be most useful for them and encourages innovation, collaboration and good practice.
The committee also pointed out that with local government revenue funding having fallen by about 25% since 2010 and no ring-fencing for local roads funding, councils have diverted the money to plug other gaps such as social care.
A lack of funding certainty has caused many councils to take short-term, reactive decisions on road maintenance, ‘which is less effective than proactive maintenance and undermines local economic performance,’ MPs said.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘We know potholes are a nuisance and a hazard for all road users, particularly for cyclists and motorcyclists. To improve local roads we are providing councils with £6.6bn between 2015 and 2020, which includes more than £700m for extra maintenance.
‘We are also investing in trials on new road materials and repair techniques as well as using technologies to help councils predict when roads will need repairs and prevent potholes.’