Headlines: March 26th, 2007



Local authorities say short-term financial decisions by the Government have increased the risk of long-term damage to the environment and the economy because of the pressure on budgets for road maintenance. The Local Government Association was responding to the latest annual report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which claimed the shortfall of funds for road repairs was now close to a billion pounds.

For the first time the study asked highway engineers how many potholes had been filled in during the past year and found the total was 944,000 and that, the report said, gave rise to serious concerns about councils having to stretch insufficient maintenance budgets. The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance – ALARM – Survey found highways departments across England and Wales reporting not only the shortfall of almost a billion pounds but also a backlog of work estimated at more than 11 years.

Responding to the survey, David Sparks, the transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said road maintenance budgets were under pressure following a freeze in central government spending since 2004 and at the same time the cost of repairs was rising at more than the annual rate of inflation.

“Roads are at the heart of our transport network and government’s short term financial decisions could have significant long term damage on the country’s economy and the environment,” he said. The Asphalt Industry Alliance has also called for the funding shortfall to be addressed urgently. Its chairman, Jim Crick said, “The number of potholes is an indicator of the generally poor condition of the local road network. This level of patch and mend work is a very inefficient use of resources, but highways engineers say they are in a Catch 22 situation.