Fuel duty share 'could fix potholes and roads'

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Media captionA share of fuel duty could help with the £12bn repair bill for Britain's roads, as Mike Sergeant reports

The government should spend £1bn a year from the money it collects in fuel duty to fix potholes and crumbling roads, the body that represents councils in England and Wales has said.

The Local Government Association says taking 2p from the fuel duty of 57.95p per litre could clear a "backlog".

Roads are only being "patched up" under current funding levels, it argues.

Ministers say £24bn is being spent on roads in 2010-21, with an extra £200m in 2014 available for potholes.


The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils in England and the 22 Welsh councils through the Welsh LGA, said £12bn was needed to tackle the "backlog of road repairs".

It said new investment in road maintenance should come from existing fuel duty revenue and not by increasing the rate itself.

In Scotland, councils spend more than £1,600 a day on compensation for drivers whose cars have been damaged by potholes, it recently emerged.

Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives under Freedom of Information laws earlier this year revealed that a total of £584,745 was paid out to drivers in 2013.

Scotland's local authority umbrella group Cosla said at the time that councils had to take action to tackle potholes despite falling budgets.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Regional Development spent £120m in 2011-2012 on resurfacing roads and footways, which included patching up potholes.

'Deteriorating network'

Fuel duty contributes more than £33bn a year to the UK Treasury and has been frozen at its current price since 2011.

Councillor Peter Box, chairman of the LGA's economy and transport board, said councils were "trapped in an endless cycle of patching up our deteriorating network".

He said: "Tackling this ever-growing national repair bill must be a priority and the government can do this by injecting an extra £1bn a year into roads maintenance - funded by investing two pence a litre from existing fuel duty.

"Motorists pay billions to the Treasury each year in fuel duty when they fill up their car at the pumps only to then have to drive on roads that are decaying after decades of underfunding. They deserve roads fit for the 21st Century."

A Treasury spokesman said: "At Budget we announced the £200m Pothole Fund for local authorities, to fix a potential three million potholes..."

He said the £24bn being spent on the road network between 2010 and 2021 was "the biggest investment" since the 1970s.

Image caption Road repairs costs have risen by £1.5bn to £12bn in the last year, the LGA said

The Treasury added it had been a "major priority" of the government to freeze fuel duty.

"As a result of action since 2011, petrol will be nearly 20p a litre cheaper by the end of the Parliament than it otherwise would have been, and a typical motorist will save £680 in total by 2015-16," the spokesman said.

John O'Connell, director of the Taxpayers' Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, urged caution on the LGA plan.

"We should be careful about ring-fencing anything, as it could lead to central government looking to plug the gaps in revenue with higher taxes elsewhere," he said.

"There are pressures on council budgets but they have to work harder to cut out wasteful spending, so they can get potholes fixed without taking even more taxpayers' money."

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