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Many roads 'could become unusable'

Much of the local road network could become unusable should there be more flooding or another severe winter, highways bosses are warning.

Crumbling carriageways are costing small businesses £5 billion a year and some local roads might have to close unless more Government money is made available for resurfacing, said the Local Government Association (LGA).

It said that last year council highways teams fixed 2.2 million potholes - 500,000 more than the year before.

But the LGA said that, despite these efforts, the backlog of repairs was growing longer, now estimated at £10.5 billion with one in five roads classed as being in "'poor condition".

It added that alongside "decades of under-investment from government", the key factor was recent freezing weather and flooding which has caused an estimated £1 billion damage.

The LGA said: "Further severe weather could now lead to a tipping point in many areas where roads will become so damaged they will have to close."

The LGA has written to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander asking him to provide greater capital funding for road maintenance "to turn around the spiralling decline".

Peter Box, chairman of the LGA's economy and transport board, said: "The case for proper funding to resurface our roads is a no-brainer. The short-termist approach of successive governments of underfunding local road maintenance, coupled with severe weather over recent years, has taken its toll. Now we're facing unprecedented budget cuts, things are only getting worse - something plain for all drivers to see."

He continued: "Despite their best efforts, many councils are trapped in a false economy of reactive repairs while managing a spiralling compensation bill, all the time praying it doesn't flood or freeze. Government cutting funding for roads is a very high-risk strategy as the longer you keep simply patching up a deteriorating surface, the more vulnerable it becomes to severe weather. Unless something changes, we risk swathes of Britain's road network becoming dangerously strewn with potholes or collapsing completely."

Transport minister Norman Baker said: "This Government is providing councils with over £3.4 billion between 2011 to 2015 to maintain their highways. We are also working with the sector and sponsoring a £6 million highways maintenance efficiency programme to ensure that councils work together to deliver a first-class service to their residents, at the same time as saving money."


From Belfast Telegraph