Potholes warning over council funding cuts

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Indy Politics

Councils in England will struggle to repair potholes caused by extreme winter weather because of a £165 million shortfall in funding, the Local Government Association warned today.

The lobbying organisation, which represents more than 350 councils, said highways departments would be hit by cuts as they begin to survey the damage caused by the worst December weather in a century.

Potholes occur where water repeatedly freezes and expands in cracks in the road, leaving holes which can damage vehicles.

Last year, local authorities fixed more than two million potholes, after receiving an extra £100 million on top of their budget for road repairs, according to the LGA.

But from April, councils will receive £65 million less from the Highways Maintenance Budget.

The allowance for road repairs in 2010/2011 is £871 million, dropping to £806 million next year and £779 million the year after, the LGA said.

By 2013/2014, the Highways Maintenance Budget is expected to be £750 million and £707 million in 2014/2015.

Councillor Peter Box, chairman of the LGA's economy and transport board, said: "Ensuring our roads are kept up to a safe standard for motorists is a priority for councils and we will be working flat out to repair as many potholes as we possibly can.

"The coldest December in 100 years will have taken a massive toll on our roads and this damage is coming at a time when councils are being made to scale back their highways maintenance budgets.

"Last year councils on average fixed one pothole every 33 seconds. With tens of millions of pounds being cut from road maintenance budgets this year it is going to be a huge struggle for already-stretched highways teams to keep up."

Regional and local transport minister Norman Baker said: "We know how important it is that local roads are well maintained. That is why, despite the need to make in-year budget reductions, we have protected day-to-day funding for local road maintenance this year.

"We will invest £3 billion in maintenance over the next four years as well as spending £6 million to help local authorities make their road maintenance programmes as efficient and effective as possible.

"However, local councils should be managing their road maintenance throughout the year and in view of the last two winters we would expect winter maintenance to be a priority for them."