£6bn pledged in potholes battle
Local councils are to get a near-£6 billion fund to fight potholes over the next six years.
Awarded by the Government, the fund 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.
Announcing the funding today, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the money would be enough to fix around 18 million potholes.
Of the total package, just over £4.7 billion will be shared between 115 English councils, while councils will be able to bid for a further £575 million in total available for the repair and maintenance of local highway infrastructure such as junctions, bridges and street lighting.
Mr McLoughlin also announced that £578 million had been set aside for an incentive fund scheme which will start in 2016 to reward councils who demonstrate they are delivering value for money in carrying out cost-effective improvements.
Mr McLoughlin said: "Roads play a significant part in everyday life. Poorly-maintained local roads, blighted by potholes, are a menace to all road users, particularly during the festive period as people travel to see family and friends.
"It is vital we have good quality roads. This Government has already taken strong action by spending £1 billion more on local roads maintenance than was spent in the previous parliament."
He went on: "This £6 billion funding will put an end to short-term fixes and will mean we have committed £10 billion between 2010 and 2021.
"This huge investment is part of our long-term economic plan to ensure we have a transport network fit for the 21st century."
Meanwhile, drivers will have to contend with disruption from next month due to work starting on improvement schemes on the link road between the southbound M6 at junction 8 and the M5 north of Birmingham and at the M6/A38(M) Gravelly Hill Interchange (Spaghetti Junction).
The schemes will involve concrete repairs and associated drainage work and will mean lane closures, some full carriageway and sliproad closures, and temporary speed limits.
The junction 8 work is due to start on January 5 and be completed by the end of May 2015. The Gravelly Hill work is due to begin on January 11 and be finished by the end of July 2015.
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said funding for potholes was welcome but there were doubts whether this was "new money".
He went on: "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.
"The Government deserves credit for their bold actions to develop and fund an investment strategy for the strategic road network. But unless equally bold actions are taken on local roads, we risk a two-tier network with strategic roads capable of supporting economic growth but with a crumbling local road infrastructure."
Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said: "You can't believe a single word ministers say. Local roads are in a desperate state under David Cameron. Over 2,220 miles more of our local roads now need maintenance work compared to 2010.
"Hard-pressed motorists and businesses are justifiably sick and tired of having their vehicles damaged because of Britain's pothole crises. This Tory Government is all talk. Motorists have had enough of their failure and broken promises."
A Local Government Association (LGA) spokesman said: "We have long called for greater funding for roads maintenance so these allocations, originally announced in the June 2013 Spending Review, to improve the network are a positive step. However, there is still a very long way to go to bring the nation's roads up to scratch.
"Previous LGA analysis of the £6 billion funding over five years found it equated to an extra £300 million a year on top of the £700 million councils were expecting, but was still £800 million short of what was needed to repair the poor quality of roads in one year alone. So while helpful, this new money does not bridge the overall funding gap which is increasing year on year."
The spokesman went on: " It would be more useful if the whole £6 billion was given to councils to get on with the important job of fixing roads, rather than £1 billion of it being tied up in Whitehall bureaucracy.
"Recent harsh winters and decades of underfunding by successive governments have created a national backlog of road repairs that would take £12 billion and a decade for councils to fix.
"The Government can tackle this ever-growing national repair bill by injecting an extra £1 billion a year into roads maintenance, funded by investing 2p a litre from existing fuel duty. The vast majority of people agree that a small amount of the billions they pay the Treasury each year at the pumps in fuel duty should be reinvested in local areas to bring our decaying roads up to scratch."
Institution of Civil Engineers director general Nick Baveystock said: "This additional funding....will provide a welcome boost if it survives a post-general election spending review.
"However given the one time road maintenance `catch-up' cost has been estimated at £12 billion this year, a significant gap will remain in local authority revenue budgets."
He went on: "Additional funds should be complemented by a focussed, joint central and local government programme for the repair work.
"Given the pressure on local authorities, this would ensure the funds are protected, spent in a cost efficient way and ultimately result in improved road conditions for UK in the long term."
AA president Edmund King said: "The state of the roads is the number one concern for our members. It is also a safety concern for those on two wheels, as well as on four.
"The fund is welcome but it is a bit like that present of a pair of socks for Christmas - it is something you should have anyway and is not a treat nor luxury. Drivers already pay way over the odds in motoring taxes compared with what is spent on the roads so at least deserve decent road surfaces."