Councils warn of 'tipping point' for repairing potholes as bill soars

Councils have warned that 2017 could be a "tipping point" for tackling potholes.

Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) showed the bill for repairing roads in England and Wales could reach £14 billion within two years.

This is several times more than councils' entire annual revenue spending on highways and transport, which was £4.4 billion in England during 2016.

Statistics from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) show the amount needed to repair roads rose from £9.8 billion in 2012 to £11.8 billion last year.

To reverse this trend the LGA has called for the Government to inject a further £1 billion a year into roads maintenance, which it claimed could be achieved by investing two pence per litre of existing fuel duty without increasing pump prices.

LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett said: "This year could be a tipping point year regarding potholes.

"Councils have experienced significant budget reductions and now face the looming prospect of a bill of £14 billion to bring the nation's roads up to scratch.

"It is wrong and unfair that the Government allocates almost 40 times more to maintaining national roads, which it controls, compared with local roads, which are overseen by councils. It is paramount this funding discrepancy is swiftly plugged."

He added that councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds last year, but warned that funding cuts mean they are trapped in a "frustrating cycle" as they are only able to "patch up" roads.

AIA chairman Alan Mackenzie said: "Prolonged under-investment, coupled with wetter winters, increased traffic and an ageing network, means that the resilience of our local roads is at a low point."

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "Our roads are a national asset and as much a vital utility as the energy, water and telecoms networks. We need to ensure they are treated with the same importance."

The Department for Transport (DfT) has committed £6 billion for English councils to improve local roads over the current Parliament, in addition to a £50 million-a-year fund specifically for tackling potholes.

A DfT spokesman said: "It is vital councils keep our roads in a good condition to deliver better journeys for drivers."