Motoring organisations including the RAC and AA have welcomed the Department for Transport’s pledge to press the Treasury for extra roads cash in the next Spending Review.
The pledge by the DfT was published earlier this week by the Transport Committee in the Government response to the Committee’s report Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap.
Published in July, the report set out that the extreme state of disrepair of the English local road network will only be sorted by a ‘front-loaded’ five-year funding settlement.
According to the report, local government revenue funding has fallen by about 25% since 2010 and with no ring-fencing for local roads funding, cash-strapped authorities have diverted the money to plug other gaps such as social care, leaving them to take short-term, reactive decisions on road maintenance, impacting drivers and cyclists.
In its newly published response, the Department for Transport said it “continues to work closely with HM Treasury and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that the priorities for funding for local highways maintenance are well understood, and this includes the benefits of a longer-term funding settlement for local highways maintenance.”
It added: “As the then Minister of State for Transport informed the Committee, a long-term consistent funding certainty for local highways maintenance is important to ensure that highway authorities can make effective decisions and to seek efficiencies through the supply chain.”
In addition to signalling support on key recommendations on funding and expenditure, the Government has accepted Committee recommendations on making it easier for the public to report potholes and bringing innovation funding together in one place. However, the DfT also said a new approach to improving and maintaining the condition of the local road network was also about efficiencies, collaborating better with neighbouring authorities, making sure the correct materials are used, using new technology and methods.
Commenting on the responses, Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said: “The new DfT ministerial team’s willingness to engage with the work and recommendations of the Committee is refreshing. We’ll continue to press to ensure the Government commits to proper funding to make sure roads are safe for all.”
The AA has also welcomed the responses. Jack Cousens, head of roads policy, said: “For years local councils have been crying out for more funds to help tackle the state of their roads.
“The nation’s roads are slowly improving, but under current spending plans it would take English and Welsh councils a decade just to get back to a standing start. This summer eight out of 10 (81%) drivers said potholes were causing problems in their area.
“Consistent funding and a more prominent focus on resurfacing roads would be better for road users than a patchwork of filled potholes.”
And RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “For many years we have called for local authorities to be given the certainty of long-term funding to improve the roads under their control, so this is very welcome news. Drivers are still twice as likely to break down as a result of hitting a pothole in 2019 compared to 2006, and substandard roads is regularly one of drivers’ top concerns according to the RAC Report on Motoring – so any changes to improve the situation can’t really come soon enough.”