Category Archives: funding for local road maintenance

RSTA welcomes Department for Transport’s local road funding commitment

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the commitment by the Department for Transport (DfT) to make the case to HM Treasury for a long-term funding settlement that addresses the backlog of pothole repairs.

The DfT’s pledge is contained in the Government’s response to the Transport Committee’s report ‘Local road funding and maintenance: filling the gap’ to which the RSTA provided evidence of the results of decades of under-investment in local road maintenance and of the need for an assured long-term funding settlement that enables councils to plan and implement effective programmes of repair and maintenance.

Funding for local highway authorities is via a combination of capital funding from the DfT highways maintenance block plus revenue funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. DfT is to work with government department to develop and submit a business case for a front-loaded long-term funding for local highway maintenance to be included in the future Spending Review.

“We have been calling for such a measure for several years and so this commitment by the DfT is warmly welcomed,” said Mike Harper RSTA chief executive. “The certainty of front-loaded, long-term funding would allow highway engineers and asset managers to make better, longer term decisions, which will lead to a more resilient network, fewer potholes and a lower whole life cost for roads. It would result in more forward planning ensuring that cost effective surface treatments can be planned into a preventative maintenance programmes that prevent potholes from forming in the first place.”

He continued: “We are delighted that our recommendations have been heard by DfT and central government and we look forward to continuing to work with DfT to promote the innovative and collaborative thinking that will make maintenance funding go much further.”


Although disappointed that there was no mention of increased funding to address the deteriorating local road network, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed today’s Spending Review that delivered a funding package of more than £3.5 billion for local authority services next year.

“This is the biggest year-on-year increase in real terms for local authority spending in ten years. We hope that it means councils will not have to raid highway maintenance budgets so much in the future in order to fund social care and other services”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. “Councils are being forced to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and as road maintenance budgets are not ring fenced this has made them an easy target.”

Cuts in highway maintenance budgets has resulted in a deteriorating local road network riddled with potholes. According to the latest AIA ALARM Surve, the bill to restore the road network to an appropriate standard is £9.79 billion.

To address this, the RSTA is calling for the investment of 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel taxation, rather than make a fuel tax cut as the Prime Minister has recently proposed.  This could provide an additional £1.5 billion per annum for road maintenance, in addition to the current spend on maintaining local roads, which is currently around £1 billion. This extra funding could make a significant difference and start working through the backlog. Furthermore, RSTA believes that there should be a 5 year funding settlement for local roads, as is the case for the strategic road network. This would enable highway managers to implement long-term programmes of road surfacing and maintenance based on assured funding decisions.

“The Chancellor has recognised the need for increase in social care spending. He now needs to consider a long-term funding mechanism to rebuild the local road network after many years of depleted highway budgets,” said Harper.


To benefit social well-being and the national economy, the monies from cutting fuel duty should be spent on repairing the road network.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is considering a two pence cut in the current 57.9p fuel duty. The proposal is the latest sign that the Government is gearing up for a Brexit Election later this year and follows voter-friendly announcements on schools and the NHS.

It is estimated that the cut would cost the Treasury £1.5 billion. This argues the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) should be spend on investing in the repair and maintenance of the deteriorating local road network.

“There are 35 million drivers in the UK. Most are voters who are fed-up with potholes and the damage that they do to their vehicles,” said Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive. Decades of under investment by successive governments 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. Investing the £1.5 billion from the cut in fuel duty in road maintenance could make a significant difference.”

RSTA has long called for the investment of an additional 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel duty to fix the plague of potholes. In addition, RSTA believes that there should be a ring-fenced 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 best manage their pavement assets with planned programme of road maintenance rather than reactive patch-and-mend pothole repair.

“Boris Johnson wishes to be remembered as the prime minister who sorts out Brexit. He should also consider being the prime minister who fixed our roads by directing the fuel duty to where it really should go: back into the road network,” said Harper.


The two Tory contenders vying to become party leader and Prime Minister have set out their initial spending plans to ensure that post-Brexit the UK is open for business and that the Conservatives have a shot of winning the next General Election. Investing in improving the deteriorating local road network would help them meet both objectives believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

“If they want to ensure that Britain is open for business then Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt should both be calling for increased investment in a well-maintained local road network”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. “A well-maintained local road network is essential for our national economic prosperity. It is the prerequisite link to the national road and rail network, to the ports and airports, between peoples’ homes and places of work.

Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to recognise this and despite the vast majority of journeys being taken using the local road network, it has failed to match the expenditure provided to maintain the national road network with that provided to maintain the local road network. National roads and motorway maintenance receives 53 times more funding than local roads.”

Harper points out that result of the lack of spending on road maintenance, according to the latest ALARM Survey from the Asphalt Industries Association, is that one-in-five local roads are classed as being structurally poor and in such a bad condition that they need to be replaced within the next five years.

The need for greater investment in local road maintenance is supported by the research and survey evidence from key industry organisations such as the British Chambers of Commerce, the EEF and the CBI who all report that their members believe that the deteriorating state of the local road network is increasingly a barrier to business.

The poor potholed state of many of our roads is of considerable concern to many drivers. With thirty five million drivers in the UK, most with the ability to vote, any future 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. The result is a deteriorating local road network that needs £9.79 billion to bring it back up to a satisfactory standard.

Harper said: “Johnson and Hunt both need to prove that they fully recognise the social and the economic benefits of a well-maintained local road network and that they are ready to provide the necessary levels of funding. Such investment would provide a national economic boost, would relieve cash-strapped local councils and would prove to be a vote winner.”


The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed MP’s calls for the end of erratic funding for local road maintenance that forces short-term, reactive pothole repairs rather than proactive planned programmes of long-term preventative maintenance.

The House of Commons Transport Committee latest report ‘Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap’, addresses the extreme state of disrepair of the English local road network and states that the only way forward is a front-loaded, five- year funding settlement that will enable local authorities to plan ahead.

The MPs’ point out that potholes are a safety risk, particularly for cyclists, and a deteriorating road network undermines local economic performance whilst repairing potholes rather than preventing them from forming in the first place does not make economic sense.

In a damning indictment of the current state of local roads, the Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said: “Local roads are the arteries of our villages, towns and cities, but most people won’t have to go further than the local shops to spot a pothole that poses a risk of injury or damage. Local authorities are in the invidious position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul. Cash-strapped councils are raiding their highways and transport budgets to fund core services.

Now is the time for the Department to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming Spending Review.”

RSTA has long argued for government to recognise the social and economic importance of having a well-maintained local road network and of the need to provide assured and adequate levels of funding.

“What is needed is proper assured funding that enable planned five year maintenance programmes. Inadequate levels of investment topped up by the odd, ad-hoc funding allocation does not allow local highway authorities to plan and implement the programmes of maintenance that would prevent potholes from forming in the first place,” said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive.

“We warmly welcome and support the recommendations of the Transport Committee that the Department for Transport work with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming Spending Review.”


News that the local road maintenance backlog in London is now over £1bn should sound a warning bell for the government. Continued funding cutbacks and decades of lack of investment in local road maintenance means that some areas of London, the capital of a first world city, have the road network more suited to a third world country said the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

The latest ‘State of the city’ survey, carried out by Atkins on behalf of London Councils and the London Technical Advisers Group, has found that the total maintenance backlog is estimated to be £1.02bn up from £907m. The survey covers the roads managed by London’s boroughs who manage 95% of the capital’s roads.

“The problem is not just a lack of funding, but a lack of funding consistency and predictability,” said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. “The current network spend is £300m a year against a need to spend at least £350m a year. Despite increased asset management and cost efficiencies London’s highway authorities are fighting a losing battle. Highway professionals want to follow the new code of practice, ‘Well Managed Highways’ as well as implement industry recommendations but the annual funding allocation, occasionally topped-up by spot-funding at odd times of the year, does not allow the planning required for good asset management. This is necessary for planning the right road surface treatments in the right places at the right time of year in order to maximise the life of roads in the most cost effective way.”

London councils expect government core funding to reduce by 63% in real terms over the decade to 2020. They have to fund the maintenance of their roads from budgets that are shrinking and, as they are not ring-fenced, are subject to being ransacked to pay for other council services.

“Years of under-funding means that despite their best efforts councils are unable to halt the continued deterioration of the London roads. The resulting rutted, potholed network is more third world than the capital of the worlds’ fifth largest economy,” said Harper. “The roads surface industry knows how to achieve better results than this. What we need is a five year settlement for local roads, similar to that used for the national road network. This would allow our highway engineers to deliver the improved road network that Londoners need and have a right to expect.”


Predictions that councils in England could face a funding black hole of over £50bn over the next six years would see even less being spent on local road maintenance as councils would be forced to raid their highway budgets in order to fund social care and other services.

An independent analysis of councils’ financial sustainability up to 2025 by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) for the County Councils Network (CCN) has found that the rising demand for services plus rising costs could result in councils needing an additional £51.8bn over the period 2019-2025.

This funding black hole could have severe repercussions on road maintenance expenditure explained Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA):  “Councils are being forced to make difficult choices and as road maintenance budgets are not ring fenced this makes them an easy target. Over the last few years we have seen the compound effect of consecutive years of underfunding on basic road maintenance. This has caused the pothole epidemic – an indication of the state of road surfaces as a whole. The local road network is a council’s most important infrastructure asset yet they are forced to raid their highway budgets to fund other services. Local authorities reported an increase in funding allocation last year, but it is essential those funds are protected and are used for road maintenance”.

According to the latest Asphalt Industry Alliance ALARM Survey decades of government underfunding local road maintenance means that one-in-five local roads are so structurally poor that they may need replacing in five years. Harper said: “This is such a poor way to maintain our roads, to let them get into such a poor condition that replacement is the only option. Timely intervention, as part of a planned asset management strategy, is the way forward, using road surface treatments that can increase the longevity of the road at a fraction of the price of replacement and with much less disruption to road users”.

Harper continued: “A well-maintained local road network is essential for the national economic prosperity of the country. It is the prerequisite link to the national road and rail network, to the ports and airports, between peoples’ homes and places of work. It is too important an asset for its already limited budgets to be used as a reserve to dip into to fund other council services.

Faced with continued budgetary cutbacks and rising demand and costs councils have striven to increase productivity and efficiencies yet there is only so much that they can do. Government must recognise that councils cannot continue without sufficient resources that allow funding for all areas of services. The Well Managed Highways Code of Practice is now in place for authorities to practice proper asset management. Let’s give the highways maintenance professionals the security of funding they need to be able to follow this guidance by providing a 5 year ring fenced settlement for local roads.”


Jesse Norman, the transport minister, has a genius for understatement, believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).  Giving evidence to the Commons Select Transport Committee investigation into local funding and governance, Norman described the local road network as being “not in great shape”.

Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive’ said: “When the recent Asphalt Industry Alliance ALARM survey reports that one in five local roads will need replacing within the next years due to their poor structural condition, that it would cost £9.8 billion to bring the local road network up to a reasonable standard, that local roads are only resurfaced every 67 years.  I would say that they are in a critical condition rather than not being in good shape.”

Harper explained how decades of chronic under-investment by successive governments in long-term maintenance: “This has left a legacy of rutted, potholed roads for which local councils are forced to carry out patch-and-mend repairs rather than undertake planned programmes of maintenance that could stop the potholes from forming in the first place.”

He pointed out that despite the economic and social importance of a road network on which the vast majority of journeys begin and end there is no long-term funding strategy for local roads. This is stark contrast to the strategic road network which has a five years assured funding that allows for long-term planning and delivery.

“The local road network must have assured long-term ring-fenced funding that will enable local councils to undertake the programmes of maintenance that are so desperately needed. Failure to provide this will continue the legacy of potholes.”


Predictions of the coldest winter for eight years could prove to be bad news for the local road network. The Weather Company is predicting Britain’s worst winter since 2010-11 with temperatures falling to -21C. Exacta Weather are predicting a colder than average December with widespread snow. Meanwhile, the Met Office also believes that a predicted El Nino warming of the eastern Pacific could result in colder than usual temperatures in December and January. This is bad news for those highway authorities who have failed to properly maintain their road networks and for the motorists who use them warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

“A cold icy winter will have a detrimental impact upon our roads resulting in more potholes, particularly where local authority highway departments have not carried out proper road maintenance programmes”, warned Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

Potholes are caused by water or snow freezing in cracks in the road surface. The expansion of ice results in damage and breaking up of the road surface which is made worse by repeated freeze-thaw cycles. Budget constraints mean that many highway authorities are unable to carry out planned, comprehensive maintenance and are forced to adopt an expensive patch-and-mend approach.

Robinson called upon the government to provide local authorities with the necessary assured funding to carry out road maintenance: “Patch-and-mend defies economic logic”, said Robinson. “It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs on average £52m2 to repair potholes. Expensive, emergency patch and mend repair of potholes is not a sensible use of highway budgets.”

A prolonged cold winter with cycles of freezing and thawing will be bad news for vulnerable roads. The government needs to provide the necessary funding to allow local authorities to invest in programmes of planned maintenance and so ensure that their road network is weather resilient”.


A new Asset Management Group has been set-up by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). Aimed at local authorities, the Group will allow their highway departments to share best practice linked to the now mandatory Code of Practice – Well Managed Highway Infrastructure. The Code calls for a change in the way that road network is managed through the adoption of a risk-based approach. 

The Group has been established in partnership with XAIS Ltd, an asset management consultancy. It will develop and run a series of new courses on road surfaces and setting investigatory levels linked to road hierarchies. 

The first of these courses is on skid resistance. It will specifically focus on section B.5.6 of the Code and the recommendations for skid resistant surveys including setting the hierarchy, responsibilities, timescales and collating evidence. The course will examine how to develop a skid resistant strategy, how to measure skid resistance as well as the legal implications and liability risk. 

The two-day skid resistance course will run on 4/5th October in Wolverhampton, 17/18th October in Milton Keynes, 15/16th November in Bristol and 4/5th December in Doncaster. For registration and further information visit: or email: 

“The new group will enable local authorities to take the best approach towards adopting asset management and we encourage them to join”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Given that, according to Department for Transport statistics, 27% of local roads need further investigation of possible inadequate skid resistance, the course on skid resistance and investigatory limits and road hierarchies will provide highway departments with the knowledge of how to meet their legal responsibilities via a risk-based approach.”