THE CHANCELLOR’S budget pledge to fix the nation’s potholes has been branded a drop in the ocean by a trade body.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) said that the £2.5 billion set aside by Rishi Sunak was a step in the right direction but not enough to plug the gap in local road maintenance budgets, let alone the rising backlog of repairs.
The Alliance says that local authorities are having to cope with an average drop in overall highway maintenance budgets of 16%.
It made the comments as it released its ALARM (Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance) survey, which it says shows that the green shoots of improving conditions reported last year have not been sustained.
Rick Green, chair of the AIA, said: “Highway maintenance budgets have dropped back to where they were two years ago. Over the past 25 years we have repeatedly seen this pattern of short-term cash injections to stem accelerating decline, only to be followed by further years of underfunding.
“This stop-start approach has been wasteful and does nothing to improve the condition of local road network on which we all rely. In fact, it has just contributed to a rising bill to put things right.”
Responding, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman Cllr David Renard said that councils were just as frustrated as motorists about the state of the roads and that the cost of clearing the backlog is more than £10 billion. He also said that councils fixed a pothole every 21 seconds.
“Additional funding announced in the Budget will help councils to do more to maintain our roads this year and tackle our local road repairs backlog, and we look forward to seeing the details of how this money will be allocated between councils,” he said, adding that the solution was to set out a five-year funding allocation to enable infrastructure improvements.
Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport at Wokingham Borough Council, added: “We would welcome any further government funding to invest in our roads as overall condition will continue to deteriorate over time without this. From next year, we are spending an additional £6 million in maintenance and any more government funding would put to great use improving even more roads across our borough.
“We maintain 446 miles of roads, and last year our maintenance programme included surface reconstruction on 4km of roads, surface dressing on 16.7km, and micro asphalt treatment on 6.4km.
“We also filled more than 4,000 reactive repairs including potholes.”
And her opposition number, Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Fishwick, said that the findings did not come as a surprise.
“The local roads network is in poor condition, following many years of under investment by the Conservative government and the Borough Council. You don’t have to go far in Wokingham Borough to see classic examples,” he explained.
“Fixing a pothole every 21 seconds is a shameful waste of limited resources and is, quite frankly, ‘papering over the cracks’.
“Councils with their limited budgets have been falling further and further behind on key parts of their roads repair programme due to the lack of government funding and a secured five-year rolling infrastructure and public transport budget that would enable areas to be treated at the most appropriate time.”