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Enormous disparity in local roads funding revealed

Potholes 2

An enormous disparity in local roads maintenance funding has been revealed in the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.

While some local authorities receive just £3,000 per mile to maintain their road network, others can spend as much as £118,000 per mile.

The report does not name the local authorities specifically, but it does reveal that a funding gap exists across England and Wales (see table below).

The authority with lowest road maintenance budget is identified as being in Wales, with £3,000 per mile. The local authority with the biggest funding pot is in the North West, with £118,000 per mile to spend.

RegionLowest road maintenance funding (per mile)Highest road maintenance funding (per mile)

East

£9,700

£64,200

East Midlands

£8,500

£15,500

London

£8,000

£75,000

North East

£18,800

£28,700

North West

£8,000

£118,000

South East

£13,500

£89,000

West Midlands

£6,500

£43,000

Wales

£3,000

£22,000

Yorks & Humberside

£12,000

£30,000

Average road maintenance budgets are up almost 20% at £24.5M per authority, up from £20.6M reported in 2018. For councils in England this includes a share of £420M additional funding allocated in the government’s Autumn Budget.

But the report claims that this figure disguises far-reaching funding cuts to local council budgets.

“All of the average totals hide a wide disparity between those with increased highway maintenance funding and those local authorities which have experienced a cut, with funds diverted to other areas of council expenditure, notably education and social care,” the report states.

“In England more than a quarter of local authorities reported a cut in last year’s budgets, while in Wales and in London around a half of authorities reported a year-on-year reduction. This disparity is particularly apparent when considering highway maintenance budgets per mile of local road.”

The AIA report concludes that there is an annual shortfall of £657M – £4.1M per local authority in England, £4M in London and £2.8M in Wales.

Chairman of the AIA Rick Green said: “There are glimmers of hope but, while overall highway maintenance budgets are up, there is still a big discrepancy between the haves and have nots.

“Some local authorities received the equivalent of £90,000 per mile of their individual networks, while a third continue to struggle with reduced budgets, with several having less than £9,000 per mile to maintain their local roads.”

Green added: “The outlook for Wales is particularly concerning with a reduction in highway maintenance budgets and a big jump in the amount needed to bring roads up to a steady state. A reminder, if one was needed, of how important sustained funding is.”

The report also identifies an increase in the number of potholes repaired during the course of 2018. In total 1.8M potholes were filled during the year, equivalent to one every 17 seconds in England and Wales.

Green warned that the patch and mend approach is not a long term solution.

“Yes, there’s been more money, but it’s clear from the 29% increase in the number of potholes filled in England and London that much of this has been used for patch and mend, which does not provide value for money or improve the underlying structure and resilience of our roads,” said Green.

“Last year we called for an additional £1.5bn of funding for local roads each year for the next 10 years to allow them to be brought up to a condition from which they can be managed in a cost-effective way. We stand by this call.” 

Tarmac managing director Paul Fleetham has also called for a longer term solution for funding and maintenance. 

“While local road networks remain the backbone of our regions’ economies, the one-time cost to return roads to a reasonable standard is extremely high at almost £10bn,” he said. 

“There is a clear opportunity to focus on a longer-term, proactive approach to local roads funding which recognises the social value of the local road network and supports the delivery of proper preventative and structural maintenance strategies for this vital asset.”

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