The Government has revealed how £50m will be allocated to individual English councils to fix potholes next year but immediately faced strong criticism for a 'short-term approach'.
The Department for Transport has published the breakdown for the first year of the £250m Pothole Action Fund, which will run from 2016/17 to 2020/21. It said this will allow councils to fix nearly 1 million potholes over the next year, based on a cost of £53 per pothole.
Some county councils will receive over £1m from the fund next year, with smaller councils receiving as little as £43,000.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘Almost every journey starts and ends on a local road, so the government is giving councils £250 million specifically to tackle the blight of potholes in their area.’
However, council leaders gave the announcement a lukewarm reception and called for ‘long-term and consistent funding’ to invest in resurfacing projects.
Cllr Martin Tett, the Local Government Association transport spokesman, said: ‘While £50m is a step in the right direction, councils need more than 230 times that amount to cover the £11.8bn cost to bring our roads up to scratch.
'The money announced today will help those councils receiving it to tackle potholes, but it would not even completely cover the cost of the £69m faced by the average authority to bring its roads up to a reasonable condition.
‘Councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds again last year despite significant budget reductions leaving them with less to spend on fixing our roads. Local authorities are proving remarkably efficient in how they use this diminishing funding pot but they remain trapped in a frustrating cycle that will only ever leave them able to patch up those roads that are inadequate.’
Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) described the Government’s approach of ‘throwing money into potholes’ as ‘complete madness’.
He said: ‘The Government’s announcement of a £50m Pothole Action Fund for England in 2016/17 might seem like good news but is, in fact, another clear sign that the battle to rescue our crumbling local roads network is being lost. It does nothing to address the cumulative effect of decades of underfunding and perpetuates the downward spiral of the ‘patch and mend’ approach.
‘The most efficient way to deal with the problem of our failing roads is to fix them properly and stop potholes forming in the first place. Poorly maintained roads simply cannot withstand the combination of severe weather and increased traffic, which is why potholes form, and which will, in time, undermine the entire structure of the road.’
Mr Mackenzie added: ‘Our research has shown that an invest-to-save approach pays dividends with every planned investment providing long-term savings of more than twice the amount spent.’
Parvis Khansari, chairman of council directors' body ADEPT’s engineering board said: 'ADEPT welcomes any funding that is designed to improve the road network, but money spent on patching potholes is an expensive short term fix not a solution to what is a long term problem.
'We need to be able to invest in long-term maintenance and prevention through sound asset management. That can only be achieved through giving funding for local roads the same priority as that given to the strategic road network.'
Last month the AIA’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey found councils successfully working 'smarter with less money', with the overall cost of the repair backlog across England and Wales falling to £11.8bn from £12.2bn last year.
However industry insiders suggested that ‘further decline lies ahead’ and that clearing the total backlog remains ‘out of reach for most local authorities’.