Shropshire Star

Council road maintenance ‘sinks to five-year low’

Just 4,144 miles of roads received any kind of treatment by local authorities in the 2022/23 financial year, RAC analysis found.

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A car hits a pothole

Council road maintenance has fallen to its lowest level in five years, according to research.

Just 4,144 miles of roads received any kind of treatment by local authorities in the 2022/23 financial year, RAC analysis found.

That is down 45% from the total of 7,510 miles five years earlier.

The research found that the total length of A roads maintained fell by 37%, with a 46% drop for minor roads.

Roads receiving maintenance by councils in England
(PA Graphics)

Looking at specific types of maintenance, resurfacing fell by 22%, while preservation treatments such as surface dressing were down 50%.

More than a third (35%) of councils including City of Bristol, Sefton and Tameside failed to carry out any road resurfacing work during the last financial year.

Pothole-related breakdowns have surged in recent months, with RAC figures showing they reached a five-year high in the run-up to Christmas.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “These figures lay bare just how little resurfacing and life-extending preservation work councils have managed to carry out in the last financial year.

“We suspect this means road maintenance in England has reached a new low point – a sorry state of affairs considering how car-dependent the country is.

“It’s especially concerning to see that so few miles of A roads received any form of road maintenance last year when these important routes are used by millions of drivers every day.

“Meanwhile, our minor roads that are essential in connecting rural areas have received barely a crumb of the pie.”

Mr Williams urged local authorities to take a “traffic light” approach to road maintenance.

Roads classified as being in a green or amber condition should undergo preventative maintenance, while those categorised as red “need to be fully resurfaced or strengthened as no amount of preventative treatment will stop them from falling apart”, he said.

In October last year the Government announced it would provide £8.3 billion of extra funding over 11 years to fix potholes in England, using money saved by scrapping the planned extension of HS2 north of Birmingham.

Mr Williams warned that “isn’t nearly enough for a long-term fix”.

He added: “We believe a proportion of money raised through fuel duty should be ringfenced to give councils the certainty of additional dedicated roads maintenance funding for years to come.

“Otherwise, this serious, decades-long problem will continue, meaning more roads will literally crumble away.

“The longer this is left unaddressed, the bigger the eventual bill for councils.”

Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils share concerns about our local roads and are working hard to try and reduce the current £14 billion road repairs backlog.

“This includes investing in cost-effective and resilient resurfacing, so that roads stay in better condition for longer, but this has been hampered by inflation and rising costs of materials.

“Extra funding promised over the next decade will help and we urge the Government to award council highways departments with five-yearly funding allocations, so they can develop long-term resurfacing programmes and other significant highways improvements.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Local authorities are responsible for road maintenance, but we are supporting them with the biggest ever increase in funding for local road improvements, with £8.3 billion of reallocated HS2 funding – enough to resurface over 5,000 miles of roads across the country.

“This is on top of more than £5.5 billion already committed to local highways maintenance and will help make journeys smoother and safer for all.”

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