Short term approach to roads ‘wastes cash’

Potholes in Wakefield.
Potholes in Wakefield.
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STOP-START Government funding for road maintenance is wasting money and making it harder to properly plan repairs, according to a new report.

The National Audit Office found that while the Government has reduced funding for roads it has also repeatedly made additional money available to deal with problems, usually at the end of the financial year.

Its report warns this approach means repairs are being done in wetter months when it is more expensive and that councils end up competing for resources at the same time driving up the cost.

The report also says that councils are responding to lower budgets by reducing drain maintenance and the clearance of gullies but this could lead to more damage to roads in the long term.

Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of MPs which keeps a watch on Government spending, said: “It is very frustrating that the Department for Transport still has not got a grip on how it funds road maintenance and improvement works so they can be planned sensibly. Since 2010, additional funding has been announced 10 separate times, clearly showing that the Department has no long-term funding plan to make sure the road network runs properly.

“This short-termism will undoubtedly lead to increased costs in the long run as the work needed becomes more substantial and road conditions worsen.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “All in all, we are providing councils in England with more than £10 billion from 2010 to 2021 for local highway maintenance, with clear guidance on ensuring it is used efficiently.”

The spokesman said additional funding was provided in response to “specific events” such as winter flooding.