Huge backlog of road repairs
The scale of the problem caused by the poor state of Britain's roads has been revealed in a new study showing councils facing huge backlogs of repairs.
A Government announcement that local councils in England are to get a near-£6 billion fund to fight potholes over the next six years is not enough to tackle the problem, ministers have been warned.
Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to local authorities in England showed some faced a backlog of up to £100 million to repair roads in their area.
Others had thousands of potholes to repair, even before the winter set in.
Unions representing taxi drivers and council workers said the country has a "shocking" record of investment in the roads, while the AA said the poor state of roads is the main concern for motorists.
The Government said before Christmas that the funding will help English local authorities tackle potholes and improve local roads between 2015 and 2021.
A succession of severe winters and the devastating floods earlier this year have left councils playing catch-up with road maintenance.
The FoI information obtained by the Press Association showed that some of the biggest backlog of repairs were in Leeds (between £90 million and £100 million), Gloucestershire (£86 million), Oldham (£60 million), Rochdale (£58 million), Islington in London (£79 million) and Swindon (£40 million).
Many councils said they did not have a backlog, while some said repairs were "historic" or described the cost as bringing their road network to a defect-free standard.
Some councils said they had thousands of potholes to repair, including Plymouth (3,200), Northumberland (6,600) and Derbyshire (1,550).
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said funding for potholes was welcome but there were doubts whether this was "new money".
"We also question whether this really goes far enough. Recent estimates by the Asphalt Industry Alliance suggest a one-off investment of £12 billion is needed in England to deal with the backlog in road maintenance, the majority of which is associated with those roads for which local authorities are responsible."
Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, said: "The announced money is less than half the official estimate of the investment needed to cover the backlog of road repairs, so the public should ask why the Government is not doing more.
"In any event, not all councils will benefit from this announcement. The promise of future money may or may not materialise under the next government.
"Meanwhile, existing potholes will crack up when this winter bites, leaving roads in an unfit and dangerous state for motorists."
Peter Box, the Local Government Association's transport spokesman, said: "While helpful, this new money does not bridge the overall funding gap which is increasing year on year."
Dr Adam Marshall, policy director at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The backlog of road repairs remains huge, and more investment will be needed in the years ahead."
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "Our members are repeatedly complaining to us that their vehicles are being damaged by the shocking condition of the roads. When you are a self-employed driver if your taxi or truck is damaged and you can't work it means that you can't earn either."
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Good local roads are vital for our transport network and it is for local councils to maintain them properly.
"This Government has provided over £4.7 billion since 2010 - an increase of £1 billion compared with the previous parliament.
"As part of our long-term economic plan we will also spend a further £6 billion between 2015 to 2021 providing councils with the certainty they require to plan how they will keep their roads well maintained."
AA president Edmund King said: "The state of the roads is the number one concern for our members who are fed up with poor surfaces, potholes and persistent puddles. It is also a safety concern for those on two wheels, as well as on four."
He said Government funding over the next six years for road maintenance was welcome, "e ven if it is a bit like that present of a pair of socks for Christmas - something you should have anyway rather than a treat or luxury".
Mr King added: "Ironically some of the worst authorities, who need more funds, will get less and therefore their roads will deteriorate further.
"The Government and councils must get this right or risk a backlash from their electorates when roads start to crumble and drivers vote with their wheels."