'Huge disparities' in regional pothole repair budgets highlighted by councils

London's per-mile budget is three times greater than the shire counties', new research suggests


LOCAL councils have called for greater government support for pothole repairs after new research showed London is allocated a disproportionately large proportion of road maintenance funding.

According to analysis carried out by the Local Government Association-affiliated County Councils Network (CCN), councillors in the capital have considerably more money than their contemporaries in more rural areas to spend on keeping their boroughs’ roads in tip-top condition. Whereas London’s boroughs had on average £62,350 per mile to spend for 2019/20, the shire regions had more than three times less (£20,885) at their disposal.

Even compared with more affluent areas of the country, London still has a preferential advantage in road repair budgets. England’s eight “core cities”, which include Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, were given on average £57,241 per mile between them to maintain their road networks, with councils in the South East able to invest on average £28,959 per mile for that fiscal year.

The CCN’s findings suggest these disparities are in spite of London’s roads being comparatively in better condition than the networks in less densely populated parts of the country. Whereas 730 miles of roads in London (around 8% of the city’s total mileage) were identified last year as needing repair “at some point in the near future”, 11,117 miles of roads in the shire counties (around 9% of the total network) were earmarked for maintenance during the same time period.

So large is London’s advantage, its overall budget of £569m for the fiscal year is almost two-fifths greater than the £409m allocated to authorities in the East Midlands over the same time frame, even though the latter region’s road network is more than double the size of the capital’s (9,128 miles for London; 19,205 for the East Midlands).

Additional research carried out by other organisations has suggested maintenance bills aren’t the only costs racked up by roads in poor states of repair. According to an RAC report carried out in October 2018, the number of roadside repair call outs for breakdowns caused by potholes has more than doubled since 2006, and a study from March 2018 suggests British drivers spend £1.7bn a year repairing pothole damage on their vehicles.

With the Conservative Party pledging major road initiatives (such as a £28.8bn investment in “strategic and local roads” and what it claims to be the UK’s “biggest ever pothole-filling programme”) in its 2019 election manifesto, the CCN is calling on the now-majority government to keep its promises, and to ensure county councils will be able to “benefit from the promise to level up regional infrastructure investment”.

Stephen Giles-Medhurst, CCN’s transport spokesperson and Hertfordshire County Council councillor, said: “Today’s analysis shows that there are huge disparities in what the regions receive for roads, pothole filling, and anti-congestion measures compared to London and the major cities.

“With over 11,000 miles in county areas identified as requiring repairs, the government should back up its rhetoric in ‘levelling up’ the country and distribute a fairer share of funding for roads in rural areas in its upcoming funding announcements.”

Regions Total Expenditure Total Miles Total Per Mile Expenditure
East Midlands £408.59m 19,205 £21,276
North East £222.17m 9,917 £22,403
South West £697.25m 29,607 £23,550
East £658.75m 24,199 £27,222
South East £844.06m 29,146 £28,959
Yorkshire & Humber £603.89m 19,454 £31,042
North West £761.34m 22,545 £33,770
West Midlands £684.08m 20,091 £34,049
London £569.1m 9,128 £62,350

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Councils have spent nearly £2bn on road repairs since 2017