One in five cars damaged by UK roads

The atrocious state of UK roads has seen 54,000 compensation claims since 2010 with councils shelling out almost £5m in compensation. Wet summers, bitter winters and a lack of funding are all blamed.

Surrey County Council has stumped up the most compensation payments in the last two years – £638,239 - according to breakdown service Britannia Rescue.

Cheaper to fund roads properly

Ironically the average insurance repair bill - £132 - was a great deal more than the estimated £50 cost of repairing the average pothole. However damage to cars saw some claim bills hit £3,000. One in five cars are now thought to be affected by under-funded UK road repairs.

"Cuts in road maintenance funding mean that local authorities face very difficult choices on the roads they prioritise for repair," says Peter Horton, Britannia Rescue managing director. "Motorists should protect themselves by keeping an eye out for potholes and keeping speeds down – particularly in wet weather when holes may be filled by rain."

Horton says the most common damage relates to punctured or damaged tyres, (45%). That's followed by problems with suspension (40%), wheel rim damage (26%) and steering damage (12%). Meanwhile it's estimated that more than 1.1 million drivers have broken down as a result of neglected roads.

Worst 10 areas for damage to cars (ranked by compensation paid out since 2010)
Rank Local Area District £ money paid out by councils to compensate drivers for damage to cars as a result of poorly maintained roads (2010-2012)
Number of compensation claims made by drivers over the past two years as a result of poorly maintained roads
1 Surrey County Council £638,239 3,650
2 Barnsley Borough Council £241,202* 296
3 Nottinghamshire
County Council
£158,578 777
4 Kent County Council £133,593 4,904
5 Lincolnshire County Council £119,706 620
6 Worcestershire County Council £110,656 668
7 Essex County Council £103,507 2,696
8 Hertfordshire County Council £101,630 1,739
9 Lancashire County Council £97,160 616
East Sussex CountyCouncil £86,591 1388

Fuel duty pressure

Much of the ongoing concerns about UK road maintenance is that it remains under-funded. Horton reckons just £17 is spent per driver on maintaining road surfaces and fixing potholes – a mere 11% of the annual road tax bill. Much of Vehicle Excise Duty disappears into the Consolidated Fund of the Treasury.

Ring-fencing taxes - with the exception of the BBC TV licence fee - have been consistently opposed by the Government, and look set to remain that way, given the pressure on the overall UK tax base. Longer-term, more pressure on road pricing is likely to build as tax revenues from cars are predicted to fall. That's because cars themselves are becoming more fuel efficient. Plus there's a slow but steady move to electrification.

Earlier this year there was a forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility claiming tax revenues from fuel duties could slip by £13bn a year by 2029. Substituting this shortfall, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies, would demand a 50% climb in fuel duty. Which is just not going to happen - unless the Government wants to commit political suicide.

Stop moaning?

But more fuel duties are being argued for by the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). It claims a 33% hike in the cost of motoring between 1997 and 2010 was, in real terms, a fall once you dial in the effect of inflation. The IPPR claims George Osborne has given UK drivers concessions worth £14 billion during the last five years - money that all taxpayers pay for.

The IPPR wants Osborne to bring in fuel duty rises, plus increased congestion charging and road tolls - with the cash to be funneled back into public transport.

"Although fuel duty rates on petrol and diesel are high compared to other countries, they were actually 7 per cent lower in real terms in 2011 than in 2001," the IPPR claims. "And compared to other countries, British motorists get away without paying a registration tax on a new car and we barely have any toll roads."

Cars likely to be off the road most
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One in five cars damaged by UK roads

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