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‘No bottomless pit’ of cash to pay for UK’s pothole problem, says Rishi Sunak

The AA said drivers were footing the bill for Britain’s crumbling roads as pothole damage payouts from struggling councils dry up
The AA said drivers were footing the bill for Britain’s crumbling roads as pothole damage payouts from struggling councils dry up - Paul Cooper

Rishi Sunak has been criticised over his failure to deal with the country’s pothole problem as he said there was “no bottomless pit” of cash to pay for their removal.

The Prime Minister insisted that the amount of money being spent on the issue was rising, in part thanks to the scrapping of the northern leg of HS2.

But John Hart, the Tory leader of Devon County Council, said it was a “drop in the ocean”.

He told the BBC: “The Government knows they have a problem.

“They’ve given us an extra £6.6million this year but that is a drop in the ocean. Last year they gave us £9.5million and, I hate to say it, but £7million of that went in inflation.

“We’ve got a backlog that’s getting bigger because we cannot cope with what we’ve got.”

Rishi Sunak, seen here at a submarine factory in Plymouth, said Devon would be getting more funding
Mr Sunak, seen here at a submarine factory in Plymouth, said Devon would be getting more funding - Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Mr Sunak, who was on a visit to the South West, acknowledged that potholes would be an “important” area in the next general election.

“I think the numbers I’ve got show that it’s growing next year,” he said, with Devon receiving £13million from the government’s savings on HS2.

“And that’s why we have to make priorities and decisions right. Obviously, I think everyone knows there isn’t a bottomless pit for these things.

“A chunk of that money has gone on highway maintenance, road resurfacing, pothole funds.

“Devon is actually going to get more funding starting this forthcoming financial year as a result of that HS2 decision to go into fixing potholes.”

Mr Hart continued: “We’ve got a backlog that’s getting bigger and bigger because we cannot cope with what we’ve got.”

Last week, the AA said drivers were footing the bill for Britain’s crumbling roads as pothole damage payouts from struggling councils dry up.

Motorists are being forced to turn to insurers to cover the cost of vehicle damage caused by potholes, as local authorities increasingly fail to compensate motorists.

With breakdown callouts for pothole damage at a five-year high, car insurance premiums have in turn risen to record levels, the AA’s Edmund King said.

Drivers can make claims with local authorities for damage from potholes, but a new analysis of official figures released last month shows funding has dropped significantly.

Between 2019 and 2023, funds paid to compensate drivers for damage inflicted by potholes fell by more than half, from £3.7million to £1.7million across 85 councils, according to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

This is despite claims rising 70 per cent between 2021 and 2023.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “Decades of under-investment in our local roads have left many resembling the surface of the moon rather than 21st-century highways.

“The only way we can see out of the mess is for the Government to increase its long-term spending on these most important national assets.

“We know there is additional funding coming from the cancelled northern leg of HS2 but this is still not enough to fix years of neglect. The longer the country’s roads are left to deteriorate, the bigger the bill will ultimately become”.