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Cuts and freeze hit road conditions

Spending cutbacks and the harsh early-winter weather have led to a decline in road conditions, according to an RAC survey.

Many councils have been forced to undertake short-term repairs rather than fund permanent solutions, said the RAC.

Half of the 20 UK councils questioned said they had not yet completed repairs resulting from the bad weather of winter 2009/10.

Eleven of the councils reported that their roads were in a poor or mixed condition, with three quarters saying there was lifting and cracking of road surfaces over a large area.

The poll also found that eight of the 20 councils had reported reductions in road maintenance budgets. One urban council had a £5.8 million reduction in its road maintenance budget and also a £160 million backlog in road repairs.

An additional survey of almost 350 RAC patrol teams found that there had been a 25% increase in call-outs resulting from potholes and poor road conditions over the past 12 months. Wheel and tyre damage was the most common problem caused by potholes. A total of 89% of the patrols said rural roads were in a poor condition, while 82% rated suburban road conditions as poor.

A spokesman for a rural council in England said: "After this winter's cold snap, the roads are back to square one. We aimed to fill potholes within 24 hours but this did not happen due to the lack of available road gangs.

"Cold weather and continued underinvestment in roads means that conditions will get worse and worse and worse. Safety is paramount but we are aware that we will have to squeeze funding as tightly as possible and that it still won't reach all areas."

RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said: "It's been a tough year for both the roads and the local councils manfully trying to repair them. Both have suffered from a harsh winter and budget cuts.

"The reality is that we're left with a downward spiral of worsening road surfaces and councils playing catch-up with less resources to do the job. In that situation it is understandable that councils are opting for cheaper but more short-term repairs to the road surface. The Government needs to ensure roads have the right level of investment to ensure they are fit for purpose - a state we are clearly some way off."

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