COUNCILS in England have spent almost £2bn repairing pothole-riddled roads in Britain in the last two years, according to data acquired by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Freedom of information (FOI) requests filed by the representative body reveal that local authorities spent £949,866,134 on road repair projects in the year 2018/2019, and £820,573,877 in 2017/2018.
Added together, English councils have over the last two years spent £1.77bn fixing local road networks. With government statistics showing the combined budgets allocated to those authorities over that time amounted to around £190.4bn, that means roughly 0.9% of all English council expenditure over the last two years has been spent on road repairs.
The amount of money spent on fixing roads can vary considerably across England. Councils in Yorkshire and the Humber accounted for the largest slice of the funding pie, ploughing more than £298m into road repairs over those two years. In contrast, over the same time period authorities in the North East funneled just £59m into repair projects.
While millions of pounds are being spent on keeping the roadways in a decent condition, the FSB claims the figures show many motorists are still having their cars damaged by broken roads. According to the data, councils in England received 699,535 pothole complaints from local motorists between 2018 and 2019, and 616,557 the previous year. Combined, that amounts to 1,316,092 complaints, or around one complaint to councils every 49 seconds on average.
Those potholes had a financial as well as physical impact on local road users; the FOI statistics show 63,091 compensation requests were submitted to English councils by residents who believed their vehicle had been damaged in some way by the faulty road surface. Of those claims, just under a quarter of them (14,623) were successful, with each of those claimants being awarded £285 on average — leaving councils across England worse off to the tune of £4.17m over those two years.
The FSB’s national chairman Mike Cherry said: “These figures show just how widespread the issue is and it’s clear that the Government and local authorities need to sit up and take notice. Measures like more funding for local authorities and improving the coordination between authorities and utility companies, will go some way in helping ease the burden of this ever-growing issue.”
The FSB isn’t the first organisation to highlight the effects of poorly maintained road surfaces on motorists. In October 2018, the RAC said the number of pothole-related breakdowns to which it responds had doubled over the previous 12 years, and the Asphalt Industry Alliance claimed in March 2018 it would take 14 years for councils across the country to rid the roads of potholes.
In an effort to solve the UK’s pothole crisis, the Department for Transport confirmed in January that it would inject £22.9m into “trial and research ventures” on new ways to resurface and repair damaged roads. The government has previously said it also intends to invest £6.6bn in road repair projects between 2015 and 2021.