Yorkshire councils given road repairs cash pledge

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
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Yorkshire councils have been told they will receive almost £500 million over the next six years to repair potholes and improve local roads.

It is the first time councils have been given a long term guide on roads funding in a move designed to make it easier for local authorities to plan maintenance and save money.

However, a breakdown of the figures shows that while Yorkshire authorities will receive £93.6 million for road repairs next year, that is scheduled to fall to £75.3 million by 2020 as public spending is squeezed further.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Roads play a significant part in everyday life. Poorly maintained local roads, blighted by potholes, are a menace to all road users, particularly during the festive period as people travel to see family and friends.

“It is vital we have good quality roads. This government has already taken strong action by spending £1 billion more on local roads maintenance than was spent in the previous parliament.”

Councils in the region have complained that funding cuts have made it increasingly difficult to maintain roads properly.

The Public Accounts Committee of MPs also criticised the Government’s “stop-go” approach to roads funding which, it said, focused on responses to flooding or winter weather rather than proper maintenance which is cheaper in the long term.

It pointed out Ministers had cut £1.2 billion from the roads maintenance budget only to give councils £1.1 billion in various one-off spending promises to meet short term problems.

Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher, the MP for Barnsley East, said: “You can’t believe a single word Ministers say. Local roads are in a desperate state under David Cameron. Over 2,220 miles more of our local roads now need maintenance work compared to 2010.

“Hard-pressed motorists and businesses are justifiably sick and tired of having their vehicles damaged because of Britain’s pothole crises.

“This Tory Government is all talk. Motorists have had enough of their failure and broken promises.”

Earlier this year, North Yorkshire County Council leader John Weighell warned the county was facing a maintenance backlog that would cost more than £300 million to clear.

It is now due to receive a rise in its funding from around £20 million this year to £29.7 million in 2015 although it will fall back to £23.9 million by 2020.

County Coun Gareth Dadd, North Yorkshire’s executive member for highways, said: “This year we have been very successful in attracting additional funding for North Yorkshire and I would like to believe that our lobbying has helped influence Government thinking on this national increase in maintenance funding.”

In addition to their regular funding, councils will be able to bid for a share of £575 million set aside for particular repair projects. Another £578 million will be given to councils which show they are delivering value for money.

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “It would be more useful if the whole £6 billion was given to councils to get on with the important job of fixing roads, rather than £1 billion of it being tied up in Whitehall bureaucracy.

“Recent harsh winters and decades of underfunding by successive governments have created a national backlog of road repairs that would take £12 billion and a decade for councils to fix.”