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Potholes backlog reaches record £16bn

Potholes backlog
Repairs to fix the potholes backlog will top £16bn (Image: Jeff Wasserman via Dreamstime)

More than half of the local road network in England and Wales could fail in the next 15 years as the amount needed to fix the backlog of repairs reaches a record high of £16.3bn.

These are the findings of the latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) report, an independent study commissioned by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

According to ALARM, potholes are the number one complaint for local politicians, yet highway teams don’t get enough funding to fix them. The survey shows the extent of the challenge as the average carriageway budget shortfall per local authority is £7.2m.

Breakdown data from the AA also reveals that 2023 was the worst year for potholes in five years.

Need for a long-term strategy

Councillor Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said the cost of the current repairs backlog is almost double the extra amount the government has pledged over the next decade.

The backlog describes the amount needed – as a one-off cost – to bring the network up to condition that would allow it to be managed cost-effectively and sustainably as part of an ongoing proactive asset management approach.

Rodwell said: “Only with a long-term plan with year-on-year funding certainty can we begin to reverse this decline, bring our roads up to scratch and save both lives and costs for all road users.”

Rick Green, AIA’s chair, said: “Local authorities have a bit more money to spend this year, but the impact of rising costs due to inflation means they have actually been able to do less with it.

“Couple this with the effects of the extreme weather we are increasingly facing, and the result is that the rate at which local roads are suffering is accelerating towards breaking point.”

This 29th ALARM survey received responses from 72% of local authorities in England and Wales.

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