New DFT deal for local authorities is to be proposed
The Department for Transport has promised to press the Treasury for a longer-term funding settlement for local highway authorities.
The move follows pressure from the House of Commons transport committee for more stable and better planned funding for local road maintenance.
The goal is for councils to be able to deliver proper planned maintenance that reduces the occurrence of pot holes rather than using all their limited resources to run around chasing after them.
In July 2019 the committee published a report Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap, which proposed a front-loaded, five-year funding settlement for councils to tackle the historic maintenance backlog.
“The current short-term approach to funding local road maintenance is not fit for purpose,” the MPs said.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has now published its response to the committee report, supporting its main key recommendations on funding and expenditure.
Transport committee chair Lilian Greenwood MP said: “A simple visit to the shops or the regular journey to work can result in injury or damage to someone’s vehicle from the plague of potholes on our local roads. This is an issue that affects everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – every day. We therefore welcome the commitment from the Department to work across government on giving local councils the cash and long-term funding certainty they need to tackle the effects on roads of years of neglect.
“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 road maintenance lobby group Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) also welcomed the warm response to the recommendations. AIA chair Rick Green said: “We agree with the transport select committee’s report and the government’s response on the need for a long-term approach to investment in highways maintenance.
“Our annual local authority road maintenance (ALARM) survey highlights that [in England only] there is an average annual shortfall of £4.1m per authority in highways maintenance budgets, with a £8bn bill to fix the backlog.
“We believe that an extra £1bn, each year for 10 years [England only], is needed to bring road conditions up to a level from which they can be maintained cost effectively going forward. We hope those in control of the purse strings will heed the calls for a significant long-term settlement.”
Cllr Darren Rodwell, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, concurred. “The government’s infrastructure strategy needs to provide stable, devolved infrastructure budgets to councils, in the same way as Highways England and Network Rail,” he said. “Providing councils with a five-year funding allocation would mean they can invest in road maintenance and other infrastructure projects.”