Headlines: May 1st, 2009

Local authority leaders say the cost of maintaining roads has spiralled beyond the ability of councils to meet the bill. New figures show the investment needed to bring roads in England and Wales up to standard has now reached 8.5 billion pounds.

The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance shows that in the last year councils spent 63.2 million pounds on dealing with potholes but also paid 47 million pounds in compensation and staff costs. The survey found there was now a pothole for every 120 yards of road on average and that it would take 13 years to clear the backlog.

The chairman of the AIA, Mike Linley, said allowing roads to deteriorate was irresponsible on several levels. “Local authority highway departments should not have to bear the brunt of public complaints when they are the ones who have the will and expertise to get our roads fixed,” he added.

David Sparks, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: “The spiralling cost of maintaining our roads is totally out of proportion to the ability of local authorities to pay for it. Councils have consistently argued for greater investment to stop our roads from deteriorating to such an extent.”

He said compensation claims from no win, no fee lawyers were taking up almost half the road maintenance budget and many councils were concerned that the severe weather in February would lead to even more potholes. Councillor Sparks urged local people to help their councils by reporting new potholes when they saw them.