Rise in pothole repairs ‘demonstrates failure of local roads funding’

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

The number of potholes filled by councils in England and Wales grew by 13% in the past 12 months, new figures show.

Some 1.7 million potholes were filled during the year ending Wednesday, compared with 1.5 million during 2019/20, according to council responses to an annual survey by trade body the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

The report revealed that highway maintenance budgets have increased from an average of £20.7 million to £23.8 million year-on-year, partly due to additional UK Government funding to fix potholes and promote active travel in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

AIA chairman Rick Green welcomed the increase but warned that spending money to fill in potholes is “essentially a failure as it does nothing to improve the resilience of the network”.

Councils would need to spend a total of £10 billion over a decade to bring all their pothole-plagued roads up to scratch, the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (Alarm) report stated.

Mr Green called for the approach to funding local roads to match the five-year settlements awarded for motorways and major A roads.

This would allow local authority highway engineers to “plan ahead and implement a more proactive, sustainable and cost effective whole life approach to maintaining the network”, he explained.

“This commitment is vital to the nation’s post-pandemic reset in which we will rely on our local road network to support recovery and underpin active travel and levelling-up goals.”

(PA Graphics)

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the report “lays bare the pressure on local authorities who are grappling with crumbling road surfaces”.

He described potholes as a “nuisance” which “not only cause expensive vehicle damage but can also lead to serious injury or even worse”.

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at charity Cycling UK, claimed it is “bizarre” that governments “expect local authorities to maintain, repair and manage their local road network without the long-term funding allocated to other transport infrastructure”.

David Renard, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said councils “have been working hard to repair our roads”.