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Central and local government need to tackle local road issues

A more ambitious joint central and local government programme is needed if the road maintenance backlog is to be clear, according to the ICE.

Its comment followed publication last week of the 19th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey. The survey says that the estimated cost of returning the local road network in England and Wales back to reasonable condition has increased to £12bn, from £10.5bn in 2013.

For the second year in a row, more than 2M potholes were filled in England and Wales. But damage caused by this winter’s record rainfall is predicted to have counteracted much of that work, with highways departments anticipating worse road conditions to come.

ICE director general Nick Baveystock said the government’s focus on the strategic road network was welcomed, but more action was needed on local roads.

“The government’s commitment to providing our strategic roads network with long-term funding certainty is a positive step, however local roads remain in a poor state, exacerbated by the severe weather events seen over recent years,” he said.

“Clearly in this economic climate the government is faced with difficult choices on funding, but we believe there is scope for a more ambitious joint central and local government programme to finally clear the maintenance backlog.

“There are some approaches across the UK that are delivering improvements, and while there is no ‘one size fits all’ scheme, lessons can and must be applied,” he added.

Baveystock’s comments echoed the ICE’s State of the Nation: Transport report published last June. The report urged central and local government to draw on solutions such as that in Wales, where the Welsh government has guaranteed that funding would be available for 22 years, enabling local authorities to borrow additional cash to clear the backlog with the knowledge that they could repay it.

The ICE also urged the government to commit to a regime which moves “from costly quick-fix work to planned, preventative maintenance - addressing road defects properly and on a long term basis”.

Its State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 report - a “scorecard” style report - will grade local roads and set out improvements required ahead of the May 2015 General Election, and will be ­published on 26 June.

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