MPs call for five-year fund to tackle potholes

PotholeImage source, PA

More money is needed to tackle the "severe risk" posed by potholes on local roads in England, according to a Commons transport committee report.

"Most people won't have to go further than the local shops to spot a pothole that poses a risk of injury or damage," said Labour MP Lilian Greenwood.

The Filling the Gap report said a lack of targeted funding was the key issue.

MPs have called on the Treasury to provide a "front-loaded" five-year fund to deal with local road maintenance.

Committee chairwoman Ms Greenwood said "cash-strapped councils" were currently being forced to divert money intended to tackle poor roads to fund other, more vital, services.

"Local authorities are in the invidious position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul," she said.

"Cash-strapped councils are raiding their highways and transport budgets to fund core services."

Since 2010, council spending power, including funding from central government and local taxes, has fallen by almost 30%.

While main roads and motorways in England, Scotland and Wales are maintained by Highways England, Transport Scotland and the Welsh Government respectively, councils are responsible for the upkeep of local, typically more minor, roads.

Potholes - collapsed areas in the tarmac resulting from the pressure of traffic and bad weather - are a menace for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

In his Budget last October, Chancellor Philip Hammond promised an extra £420m for councils in England to deal with "potholes, repair damaged roads, and invest in keeping bridges open and safe".

But the transport committee report states there is still not enough funding - and current funds are not allocated effectively.

The committee's 10th Report of Session 2017-19 said deteriorating roads can result in greater cost to taxpayers - with quick-fixes often proving more expensive in the long-term.

It called for a longer-term strategy to allow councils to plan ahead and encourage innovation and collaboration.

"Now is the time for the department to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming spending review," said Ms Greenwood.

"Almost every journey begins and ends on local roads: the DfT must work with the public and local authorities to make them safe."