Many county councils across England appear to have responded to criticisms about failing to make pothole repair and road maintenance a top priority, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has found, with increased spending across the country.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the IAM has found councils are following government-stated best practice and increasingly investing more money into capital projects (i.e. road rebuilding) rather than spending funds on short-term temporary repairs.
In early 2015 the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) confirmed a backlog of repairs topped £12 billion, while an IAM survey found that 64 per cent of participants cited general road maintenance as one of their biggest concerns.
The FOI request asked county councils how much they spent on fixing road surface defects such as potholes and how much they spent on capital projects to resurface roads between 2013 and 2015.
While the IAM’s findings reveal many councils are spending less on filling potholes, 17 out of 23 of them are in fact spending more overall on resurfacing worn-out roads.
The top five county councils to invest the most money into road repairs and resurfacing between 2014/15 include:
1. Surrey – £44 million
2. North Yorkshire – £43.9 million
3. Cumbria – £33.5 million
4. Devon – £32 million
5. Lincolnshire – £30.2 million
In percentage terms, the following councils have increased their capital spending on resurfacing roads the most:
1. Oxfordshire – 139 per cent (from £4.6 million to £11 million)
2. Cambridgeshire – 85 per cent (from £10.5 million to £19.4 million)
3. Norfolk – 45 per cent (from £19 million to £27.6 million)
4. Leicestershire – 43 per cent (from £7.5 million to £10.7 million)
5. West Sussex – 38 per cent (from £19.5 million to £27 million)
County councils that have invested the most money into temporary pothole repairs between 2014/15 include:
1. Kent – £7.7 million
2. Devon – £5.98 million
3. Gloucestershire – £5.93 million
4. Cumbria – £5.4 million
5. Surrey – £4.88 million
The top five councils increasing spending for temporary pothole repairs in percentage terms compared to the previous year are:
1. West Sussex – 57 per cent (from £1.4 million to £2.2 million)
2. Nottinghamshire – 28 per cent (from £1.5 million to £1.92 million)
3. Norfolk – 23 per cent (from £2.6 million to £3.2 million)
4. Devon – 21 per cent (from £4.9 million to £5.9 million)
5. Dorset – 15 per cent (from £2.6 million to £3.2 million)
In tandem with the increase in spending on resurfacing roads, the IAM has discovered eight out of 21 councils are spending less on filling potholes.
Sarah Sillars, IAM chief, said: “We are very pleased that our calls for greater investment in local roads appear to be having some effect.
“We hope this trend continues. With council tax increases this April, we very much hope councils will use some of the extra money in continued investment in their own vital local roads, the condition of which has a direct impact on road safety.
“The IAM welcomed the government’s pothole fund as a solution for short-term problems, but our figures show that the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme is really starting to deliver long-term benefits by encouraging a shift to capital spend and sharing of knowledge and resources.”