The additional £420 million for local road maintenance announced in today’s Budget (29th October 2018) is welcomed but it is far short of the £9.3 billion necessary to bring the deteriorating local road network up to a reasonable standard. It is also only a small percentage of the £58 billion that motorists pay every year in fuel duty, VAT and other motoring taxes.
Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) said: “The reactive additional funding announced by Phillip Hammond shows that he has failed to do the maths and understand the economic folly of spending an average £52m2 to repair a pothole against the £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road. The odd additional funding for pothole repairs is welcomed but it is no substitute for the long-term funding of road maintenance programme that would prevent the potholes from forming in the first place.”
Robinson points to the ALARM 2018 survey carried out by Asphalt Industry Alliance that found that there are over 24,400 miles of local roads that require essential maintenance. That equates to one-in-five local roads now classed as being structurally poor and requiring replacement within five years.
He also questioned the Chancellor’s decision to award £28.8 billion to fund improvements on the national road network: “Whilst improvement to the strategic road network is welcomed. The Chancellor must understand that a well-maintained local road 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. Despite the vast majority of journeys being taken using the local road network, Government continues to fail 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 already receives 53 times more funding than local roads.”
RSTA is calling for a number of simple cost effective policy changes that would make a real difference. This includes allowing the local road network to also receive funds from vehicle excise duty – currently, the monies raised are only available for motorways and A roads – injecting £1 billion a year to address the £9.3 billion backlog of local road pothole repairs by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty and ring-fencing local highway budgets. Starved of funding, by 2020 local councils will spend 60p in every £1 raised by council tax on social care leaving less to fund essential road maintenance.
“If the Chancellor is to show that he is really serious about improving the national economy and showing that post-Brexit the UK is open for business then he must recognise the national economic importance of investing in a well-maintained local road network. This budgets fails to do that,” said Robinson.