LGA: Funding for almost 10 million pothole repairs this year lost from council budgets

Over 9.5 million potholes could be repaired or prevented by councils with the funding lost from local road maintenance budgets this year – the equivalent of 64,000 repairs in every local council area, the Local Government Association warns today.

Pothole in the rain

Overall capital funding allocated to councils for local road maintenance in 2021/22 by the Department for Transport is £1.39 billion – a reduction of £400 million (22 per cent) from the previous year.

Fixing roads is a top priority for councils, with a pothole repaired every 19 seconds despite the COVID-19 pandemic requiring teams to work hard to introduce temporary road measures.

In recent years the Government has supported local roads maintenance, including a Pothole Repair Fund, recognising the importance of resilient and well-maintained highways infrastructure to all road users and businesses.

In order to allow councils to try and tackle the £10 billion backlog of local road repairs, the LGA said the Government should use the Spending Review to plug this year’s £400 million gap and commit to an additional £500 million per year to councils for road repairs. This would bring the total annual local roads maintenance budget to £1.8 billion.

The cost of construction has also increased significantly, reflecting global supply problems. Future capital allocations should take into account the significant inflation rates in highways construction and maintenance costs.

Cllr David Renard, Transport spokesperson for the LGA, said:

“The ability of councils to improve local transport connectivity and infrastructure, including upgrades to local bus, road and cycle infrastructure, is critical to government ambitions to level up the country, reduce carbon emissions from transport, and support our long-term economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Councils are working hard to keep our roads safe and resilient, repairing potholes as quickly as they can. However, it would already take £10 billion and more than a decade to clear the current local roads repair backlog, with the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellation of key planned works risking extending this backlog further.

“With long-term and consistent investment in local road maintenance in the Spending Review, councils can embark on the widespread improvement of our roads that is desperately needed, to the benefit of all road users up and down the country, including cyclists.”

Notes to editors

1. The pothole repair statistics are based on the latest ALARM 2021 Road Repair survey, which estimates that a planned pothole repair costs a local council in England £41.61 to carry out on average.

2. The Department for Transport (DfT) council allocation of £500 million for highways maintenance in 2021/22. This is the second of five equal instalments from the £2.5 billion Potholes Fund, providing £500 million a year between 2020/21 and 2024/25, announced by the Chancellor in the 2020 Budget. In the same announcement it was confirmed that that overall capital funding for local road maintenance this year will be £1.39 billion – down from £1.78 billion in 2020/21.