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Cash-strapped local authorities struggling to repair winter damaged roads, says report

Two thirds of local authorities have revealed that they were unable to make good damage caused by last year’s severe winter, with the bill for repairs running to £600M across England and Wales.

For the third year running respondents to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (Alarm) survey carried out by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) have reported significant amounts needed to be spent on repairing winter damage. This year the average cost per authority in England  was £4.4M, with a total record high across England and Wales of £600M.

Added to the costs of previous winter weather damage, this reaches an estimated total of £1.4bn over a period of three years. Emergency central government funding of £200M in 2011 and £100M in 2010 was made available to help cope with repairing that damage. The AIA said that this additional government funding, although welcome, has proven “woefully inadequate”.

“Severe winter weather would not, in itself, produce a plague of potholes on well maintained roads,” said AIA chairman Alan Mackenzie. “These disastrous figures result from decades of underfunding and enforced short-term planning, frustrating the efforts of local authority highways engineers to carry out the preventative work which they know has needed to be done.”

The AIA is calling for central and local government to help highways departments to get their roads back into reasonable condition and to implement longer term planning. Over half of the survey respondents said that funding should be set for a minimum of five years so that they could plan more cost effective preventative maintenance, while 35% said that funding should be set for 10 years or more.

The 2012 Alarm survey is based on information supplied by 70% of authorities in England and Wales. Responses were received during January and February 2012. The AIA comprises the two trade bodies whose members produce the raw materials for asphalt roads, as well as mixing and laying asphalt. It commissions this annual survey into the condition of local authority roads and the funding required to maintain them properly.


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