Councils call for utility firm lane charges to ease roadworks disruption
Powers to make it easier to charge utility companies for every day they spend digging up roads causing traffic disruption are being demanded by councils.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents dozens of authorities across England and Wales, is calling on the Government to act to reduce levels of gridlock faced by motorists.
It wants councils to be able to introduce so-called lane rental schemes, where companies have to pay a daily rate for the work they do on key roads during busy periods, without the need to get approval from the transport secretary.
The LGA believes making it easier to charge utility companies would give an added incentive to finish work as quickly as possible, therefore reducing headaches for commuters.
The money generated through the charges could then be used to fund measures aimed at reducing future roadwork problems.
LGA transport spokesman Councillor Peter Box said there is a need for "robust and decisive action".
He said councils are "being hamstrung by a lack of effective powers to tackle this issue".
"Councils know their areas best and should be able to make decisions about traffic locally," he said.
"This means they need the option of being able to introduce lane rental schemes without secretary of state approval, which is time-consuming and bureaucratic."
Only Transport for London and Kent County Council have been granted approval to run lane rental schemes.
The LGA said the scheme in London has been a major success, significantly reducing levels of severe disruption caused by roadworks.
Lane rental can also incentivise utility companies to get the job done right first time because they can be compelled to redo poor work and be forced to pay the charge again.
The LGA claims councils spend nearly a fifth of their maintenance budgets - £220 million - on tackling poorly-executed utility roadworks.
Mr Box said: "While most utility companies are responsible and councils want to work with them, a minority do a poor job.
"Expanding the lane rental scheme nationwide would incentivise utility companies to do the job right first time around and help get our traffic moving again."