Shortfalls in pothole repair budgets among local authorities have reached a record high, according to research.
Councils in England and Wales said they only received two-thirds of what they needed during the current financial year to stop local roads further deteriorating, the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (Alarm) survey found.
This resulted in a total carriageway maintenance budget shortfall of £1.3 billion.
That is a jump of more than a fifth on the previous 12 months, and represents the highest figure in 28 years of Alarm reports.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which commissioned the research, said this is because budgets have not kept pace with cost increases caused by inflation.
Rick Green, who chairs the AIA, said: “Highway engineers can only do so much with the resources they are given and should be applauded for the steps they take to keep roads safe.
“We all appreciate that there are difficult choices to make with demands and pressures on the public purse coming from every area, but not investing in local road maintenance only leads to worsening conditions, which impact on other locally provided public services, a rising bill to fix the problem and more road user complaints.
“To really improve conditions and create a safe, resilient and sustainable network, what’s needed is a longer-term funding horizon from central Government with more highway budget ring-fencing.
“This would help local authority engineers to plan effectively and implement more efficient works to protect and enhance the resilience of the local road network.”
Mr Green added that the £200 million boost for filling potholes on local roads in England during the next financial year – announced in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget last week – was welcome but “not enough” as it will “do little to improve overall structural conditions and stem further decline”.
The report found the one-time cost of bringing all local roads up to scratch now stands at £14 billion and would take 11 years to complete.
It also revealed that 18% of the local roads network – nearly 37,000 miles – has been assessed as being in poor condition and having less than five years of life remaining.
Three out of four local authorities in England and Wales responded to the survey.
David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said councils “work tirelessly” to repair roads but the backlog is “increasingly challenging to tackle”.
AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens described the condition of some roads as “an international embarrassment” and called for “serious investment” after “years of sticking plaster solutions”.
His counterpart at the RAC, Nicholas Lyes, said the survey findings are “no surprise to anyone who is forced to endure our pothole-plagued roads”.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are investing more than £5 billion from 2020 to 2025 into local highways maintenance, and recently announced an extra £200m at the Budget to fix millions of potholes a year.
“This will help make journeys smoother and safer for all, repair dozens of bridges, and resurface roads up and down the country.”
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