‘Ever-worsening’ pothole problem warning as city council faces £116m repairs
Newcastle’s roads face an “ever-worsening” pothole nightmare, with city council chiefs warning that they have a repairs backlog of £116 million.
Despite repairing more than 23,000 potholes already this year, Newcastle City Council says it would cost £70 million to carry out every remaining road repair needed in the city and a further £46 million for footpaths.
That is before the winter weather sets in over the coming months, with freezing conditions likely to cause further damage to the city’s road network.
The financial black hole the council faces in its potholes budget has worsened over the past year, rising from 2017’s £111.5 million – though the damage caused by the Beast from the East had led to fears earlier this year that the gap might be as high as £140 million.
The authority’s highways budget has been slashed by a almost a third in recent years.
A council report warns that “failure to maintain our network even in its current condition will lead to an ever-worsening situation with potential closures and restrictions to the public highway and a growing risk to public safety”.
Coun Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport, added: “In Newcastle we recognise the importance of keeping our roads in good condition however the issue of potholes is a nationwide problem.
“Like other councils across the country, the impact of austerity and lack of government funding for highways maintenance has severely affected our ability to repair our ageing and deteriorating infrastructure.
“While we once had more than £11m to cover all highways issues, including potholes, this has now been slashed to just around a third at £3.8m.
“We have recently been awarded an additional £1.2m from Department for Transport to tackle potholes and structural repairs such as bridges, and although the funding is welcome, it is far below the £116m we need to tackle the backlog of repairs on Newcastle’s roads and pavements.
“We will continue to prioritise our resources to ensure we deal with the most urgent repairs first. In this year we have repaired over 23,000 potholes.”
The council says that, while the state of the city’s classified roads has been managed, budget cuts have led to “a significant increase in our residential streets requiring maintenance”.
Newcastle Lib Dem opposition transport spokesman Coun Greg Stone said: “Highways funding has been cut by the Labour administration by around 90% in recent years and it shows. In addition to the poor quality of road surfaces, the Opposition is aware of growing safety issues and concerns arising from the poor state of road markings in many locations.
“The maintenance backlog is continuing to grow but the council has no clear plan to tackle it. Opposition councillors have been taken aback to learn that the council has sat on funding for a number of ward-level road maintenance schemes agreed several years ago without progressing them.
“It is hard to escape the conclusion that the council administration doesn’t see maintaining the city’s highways as a priority.”