Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge of a one-off £1.8bn cash boost for the NHS shows that he knows that come a General Election Brexit is not the only concern of voters. He would be well-advised to also address to deteriorating local road network.
Decades of under investment has resulted in a deteriorating local road network riddled with potholes. The bill to restore the road network to a decent standard is £9.79 billion because successive governments have failed to provide the funding levels required to carry out the necessary levels of road maintenance. Continued cutbacks in local authority funding means that the situation can only get worse.
“Any political party that commits to real investment in our local road network would have significant approval from voters,” said Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).
With thirty five million drivers in the UK, most with the ability to vote, the prime minister would be well-advised to take note of that concern. Of particular concern is that the billions of tax paid by drivers does not seem to go towards funding a better road network. Motorists pay £58 billion in taxation to the Exchequer – £26.9 billion in fuel duty, £25 billion VAT on fuel and £6.1 billion for other motoring taxes. Against this just £2.06 billion is provided by central government as funding for local road maintenance. Furthermore, as it is not ring-fenced, the funding may not even be spent on road maintenance but on other council services as cash-strapped councils struggle to balance the books.
RSTA is calling for the investment of an additional 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel duty to fix the plague of potholes. This would provide an extra £1 billion to fix roads.
“A further £1 billion annual investment would certainly help local authorities tackle the damage done by under-investment by successive governments,” argued Harper. “The poor state of our roads is a major social and economic issue. Voters should make it a political issue too asking the party activists and parliamentary candidates what their political party plans to do to increase investment in their local roads.”
In addition, RSTA is calling for a 5 year funding settlement for local roads, as is the case for the strategic road network, so that highway managers can make long term decisions about how to manage their pavement assets, rather than relying on twindling budgets that are topped up on an ad hoc basis by additional pothole funding. Harper said: “Appropriate funding as part of a 5 year settlement will allow highway authorities to intervene with surface treatments, at the appropriate time in a roads life, to avoid potholes forming in the first place.”