‘Pothole fund’ set up from scrapping of the northern leg of HS2 ‘nowhere near enough’

A ‘pothole fund’ set up from the scrapping of the northern leg of HS2 is ‘nowhere near enough’ to maintain council road networks, a meeting heard.

Senior councillors said the cash promised by the government represents a ‘trickle’ by the time it reaches local authorities.

In November, Rishi Sunak pledged to tackle “the scourge of potholes” with £8.3bn of funding for local roads maintenance in England.

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The prime minister said the investment, to be made available to local authorities over 11 years, was “unprecedented”.

Credit - the RACCredit - the RAC
Credit - the RAC

The funding is part of the government’s Network North plan to spend money saved by scrapping HS2 north of Birmingham.

Wakefield Council’s cabinet members criticised the plan as they agreed to spend £12m on maintaining the district’s roads over the next 12 months.

The council says the investment falls well short of the actual amount needed to improve more than 2,000 kilometres of roads, footpaths and cycle lanes.

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The funding will instead be used to target areas most in need of work.

Most of the funding comes from the Department for Transport and West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Matthew Morley, portfolio holder for planning and highways, said more than £70m would be required pay for a significant network upgrade in Wakefield.

He told the meeting: “I don’t want to get people’s hopes up that we are going to sort every pothole out, every road out and every pavement out.

“We haven’t got that amount of funding.

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“I always try to be more positive but I’m just telling the truth of where we are with it.

“We desperately need more highways funding.

“We all know when we go out door-knocking and speaking to residents that it’s one of the main things that comes up.

“Everyone has an issue with potholes and road resurfacing. So we do our best.

Les Shaw, cabinet member for resources and property, said: “It’s a little bit annoying that government give out announcements about cancelling HS2 coming up to the north and then say ‘we are going to put all this money into potholes’.

“The public gets excited and then the money doesn’t flow.

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“The frustration then comes back onto us on a regular basis.

“They are saying you have got all this money that should have gone to HS2 but it obviously isn’t enough.

“I know, with the money that we get, some of the good work that our teams do around the district.

“But it’s nowhere near enough and the government should start either putting the money in or not saying they are going to put the money in at the beginning.”

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Coun Morley added: “What always frustrates me, after a bad winter, is that they will make a massive announcement about billions of pounds going to highways networks across the country.

“When that gets down to council level across the country you are talking a few hundred thousand pounds.

“It’s not a massive amount of money.

“We see that in all our departments – these massive announcements made at government level.

“By the time it trickles down to our councils it’s very little funding.”

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Part of this year’s funding will be used to promote safer walking, cycling and links to public transport.

The council’s highway team will focus on a programme of work which includes 83 maintenance projects across the district.

The funding for 2024/25 is in line with last financial year, which saw the council fill 12,747 potholes on roads and 1,028 footway potholes, as well as resurfacing 49 roads and 94 footpaths.

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