Levelling up: Budget cuts mean 11m rural potholes will go unfilled

Funding for rural councils cut by £480m. Biggest cut of £100.7m over two years in South West local authorities. 

In contrast, Cities and Urban areas benefit from £5.7bn road and transport fund over three years.

Where is the outcry from our County leaders and MPs? – Owl

Ben Clatworthy www.thetimes.co.uk

More than 11 million potholes will go unfilled from April when funding for rural councils is cut by £480 million.

Councils outside England’s major urban areas say they will be forced to cancel or drastically scale back road maintenance work as a result. They are to receive £727 million for road maintenance funding in the next financial year, compared with £1.2 billion two years ago.

Critics accused the Conservatives of breaking a manifesto pledge to earmark an extra £500 million a year for potholes. The budgets of England’s largest county and rural councils are being cut.

The County Councils Network (CCN), which represents the councils and carried out the analysis, said the cuts would leave local authorities with little choice but to cancel planned works, despite the worsening condition of England’s roads.

County leaders said they had welcomed the 2019 pledge of “the biggest-ever pothole filling programme”, which included £2.5 billion in additional funding to councils over the course of the parliament, but they were now receiving 40 per cent less than they did two years ago.

“A £479 million drop in funding between 2021 and 2023 is hugely significant,” Martin Hill, the CCN devolution spokesman, said. “With the government making such a clear announcement that it was increasing pothole funding in 2019, we are left grappling with the public’s expectation that we are able to continue to invest in our road network.

“Unless this reduction is reversed, and the government provides an urgent injection of resources to match the level it distributed in 2020-21, then we will have little choice but to cancel planned works. This would represent a major scaling back of our ambitions.”

In contrast England’s major cities and urban areas will benefit from significant investment in road and transport infrastructure through a new dedicated £5.7 billion fund over the next three years.

Last year the RAC dealt with more than 10,000 pothole-related breakdowns, which worked out as 27 every day and was the highest total since 2018.

The CCN said that 13,000 miles of rural roads in the 36 affected county areas were identified as requiring maintenance last year, equating to 9 per cent of the total road network.

In 2020-21, when councils were allocated the first tranche of the pothole fund, budgets rose to £1.2 billion for those councils, although there were immediate reductions in the 2021-22 budget. For the next financial year the amount will be £727 million.

Local authorities in southwest England will have the biggest reduction in funding over the two years. Their budgets will fall by £100.7 million, which would pay for 2.4 million potholes to be filled.

Counties in the southeast lose out on £87.1 million of funding, the equivalent to two million potholes, while those in east of the country lose out on £71.4 million, which could have filled 1.7 million potholes.

The latest research by the Asphalt Industry Alliance found that average pothole repair cost an average of £41.61. This means that the funding shortfall will result in 11.5 million potholes not being dealt with.