Thursday, 07 April 2016 05:09

Patchy response to pothole fund

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Patchy response to pothole fund

RURAL councils have given a lukewarm reception to a £250m fund to repair more than 4 million potholes.

Funding calculated according to the size of the local road network in each area was announced by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin on Thursday (7 April).

Rural local authorities have welcomed the money but said a greater long term investment in road maintenance rather than a sticking plaster approach was still required.

Over 100 councils in England would receive £50m in funding to help remove around 943,000 potholes from local roads during this financial year, said Mr McLoughlin.

The funding has been made available as part of the £250m Pothole Action Fund included in last month's Budget, which will fix over 4 million potholes by 2020/21.

Mr McLoughlin said: "Almost every journey starts and ends on a local road, so the government is giving councils £250 million specifically to tackle the blight of potholes in their area.

The government was making an "unprecedented investment" in local road maintenance over the next five years, he added.

"We are giving a record £6 billion to local authorities in England that will improve journeys across the regions."

In total, the government was spending a record £6.1 billion on local highways maintenance between 2015/16 and 2020/21, said Mr McLoughlin.

This would give councils long-term certainty for the first time to plan future work with the aim of preventing potholes and improving local roads, bridges and street lighting.

As part of this investment, the Pothole Action Fund will give local authorities in England £50 million a year, over the next five years, to help them tackle more than 4 million potholes.

But some rural councils said the funding was only a short-term fix.

Somerset County Council said it would be more cost effective in the long run to make a permanent repair by cutting out and replacing the failing section of road with hot material.

Councillor David Fothergill said: "We're a big rural county with more than 4,000 miles of road, and have seen our funding from government consistently reduced over recent years.

"So while this 'one-off' extra funding is very welcome, a greater ongoing level of investment from government in our basic structural maintenance programme would enable us to ensure fewer potholes appear in the first place."

The Local Government Association described the £50m as a step in the right direction but said more than 230 times that amount was needed to cover the £11.8bn to bring roads up to scratch.

The money announced today would help tackle potholes, but it would not even completely cover the cost of the £69m faced by the average authority to bring its roads up to a reasonable condition.

"Councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds again last year despite significant budget reductions leaving them with less to spend on fixing our roads," said LGA roads spokesman Martin Tett,

"Local authorities are proving remarkably efficient in how they use this diminishing funding pot but they remain trapped in a frustrating cycle that will only ever leave them able to patch up those roads that are inadequate."

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