Potholes on the increase as councils cut back
That's the finding of a survey of 20 UK councils by RAC as the third harsh winter in a row results in further road deterioration across the country.
The RAC questioned 20 local councils, including nine in rural areas, of which 12 said that the focus of their road maintenance strategy has now switched to short-term repairs in order to fill more potholes caused by the harsh winter.
The research found that almost six months since the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), budgetary worries are adversely affecting a number of councils. Some councils are protecting road budgets using new private schemes and others are supplementing money from central Government with extra spending. This is despite an additional £100 million funding pledged by the Government in the Budget on top of the £100m announced last month.
The lack of available funds has meant a downward spiral for road quality as repairs from winter 2009/10 have not yet been carried out by all councils, leading to further deterioration from the latest poor weather conditions. Half of the councils questioned by the RAC said that, heading into winter 2010/11, they had not yet completed repairs resulting from the cold snap from the previous year. Meanwhile 11 of the 20 councils reported their roads to be in a poor or mixed condition.
And three-quarters (15) of the councils reported accelerated road deterioration as a result of the most recent widespread freeze in December 2010, with several councils reporting particular concerns about frost heave – the lifting and cracking of road surfaces over a large area.
A spokesperson for a rural council in England said: 'After this winter's cold snap, the roads are back to square one. We aimed to fill potholes within 24 hours but this did not happen due to the lack of available road gangs. Cold weather and continued underinvestment in roads means that conditions will get worse and worse and worse. Safety is paramount but we are aware that we will have to squeeze funding as tightly as possible and that it still won’t reach all areas.'
These findings are supported by research among RAC patrols who reported a 25% increase in callouts resulting from potholes and poor road conditions over the past 12 months.
Adrian Tink, RAC motoring strategist said: 'It's been a tough year for both the roads and the local councils manfully trying to repair them. Both have suffered from a harsh winter and budget cuts. The reality is that we're left with a downward spiral of worsening road surfaces and councils playing catch-up with less resources to do the job. In that situation it is understandable that councils are opting for cheaper but more short-term repairs to the road surface.
'We know public finances are tight, but our economy is based around the roads, and the Government need to ensure they have the right level of investment to ensure they are fit for purpose – a state we are clearly some way off.'