Councils have warned the cost of repairing potholes could reach £14bn within two years.
The warning comes from the Local Government Association (LGA), which claims the overall repair figure is growing. It cites the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) annual ALARM survey, which says total has risen from £9.8bn in 2012 to £11.8bn last year. If the rate continues, the LGA says it could be £14bn by around 2019.
The LGA warns this could hit other services as £14bn is three times its members’ entire annual revenue of £4.4bn for highways and transport. Councils fix about 2M potholes a year, but the LGA says a one off cost of £69M for each council is needed to bring roads to a reasonable condition.
The LGA is calling on the government to put an extra £1.1bn into roads maintenance, which it says could be achieved by investing 2p per litre from existing fuel duty rates.
“This year could be a tipping point year regarding potholes and councils, who have experienced significant budget reductions, now face the looming prospect of a bill of £14bn to bring the nation’s roads up to scratch,” said LGA transport spokesman councillor Martin Tett.
“It is wrong and unfair that the government allocates almost 40 times more to maintaining national roads, which it controls, compared with local roads, which are overseen by councils. It is paramount this funding discrepancy is swiftly plugged.”
The AIA backed up the claim, saying it is impossible to clear the maintenance backlog without a significant increase in funding.
“The fact remains that our local road network receives only a fraction of the funding allocated to the Strategic Road Network (SRN) and this disparity needs to be tackled proactively if further decline is to be prevented,” said AIA chairman Alan Mackenzie.
“Reallocating a few pence from existing fuel duty might prove an equitable way of turning the tide, as could previous calls for Vehicle Excise Duty to be redirected to local roads from 2021. Either way, the LGA is right that time is running out and that local roads maintenance should now be a national priority.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “It is vital councils keep our roads in a good condition to deliver better journeys for drivers.
“We are giving councils in England a record £6bn over the next five years to fix roads in their area, and on top of this we recently announced an additional £925m for repairs and upgrades.
“In addition, we have a £250m fund specifically to tackle the blight of potholes.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced £70M to repair potholes for the financial year 2017/18 and this will be shared between local highway authorities in England, outside London. The previous year £50M was allocated.