UK spends least out of 13 nations on repairing roads ‘blighted’ by potholes

London: Funds earmarked to fix pothole-plagued roads in the UK have been slashed to lower than 13 other major nations, new figures show.

The cost of repairing roads affected by potholes in England and Wales alone is estimated to be £14bn – while Edinburgh has been branded the pothole capital of Europe, with residents resorting to plugging gaps with traffic cones.

But the government cut annual expenditure on UK road maintenance from £4bn in 2006 to £2bn in 2019 – the last year of international comparable data available.

The US, Japan, New Zealand, Austria and Sweden have all increased spending by around 50% over the same period.

France, Canada and Finland have also ringfenced their pothole repair budget more than the UK.

Only Italy and Ireland have overseen higher cuts to road repairs, according to figures produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The data was analysed by the Local Government Association (LGA) – a cross party organisation that works on behalf of councils to give a voice to local authorities.

It is now calling on all political parties to commit to a 10-year programme where funding for local roads is boosted by devolving the equivalent of 2p per litre of existing fuel duty.

It is hoped the cash injection could help councils reverse the “decline” in road conditions.

LGA chair, Shaun Davies, warned the UK had fallen to “almost the bottom of the league” in terms of the money allocated to repair local roads.

“Decades of reductions in funding from central government to local road repair budgets have left councils facing the biggest ever annual pothole repair backlog.

“Positive extra funding in the recent Budget will help, but councils still face considerable challenges when trying to get on top of this pothole blight.”

Meanwhile the president of AA, Edmund King, said although main roads are repaired “fairly rapidly” in spring, residential and rural roads remain “blighted by potholes”.

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“This is not only a threat to vehicles but a danger to pedestrians and cyclists who are more active at this time of year,” he added.

Ministers announced funds for “highway maintenance” would increase by £200m in the Spring Budget.

But council leaders said there was a £1.3bn shortfall in the pothole repair budget this year and the £200m was simply “not enough”.

A report found one in five roads – covering 37,000 miles – in England and Wales are in poor condition and have less than five years of life remaining.

A government spokesperson said: “We’re spending more than £5bn from 2020 to 2025, with an extra £200m announced at the budget in March, to resurface roads up and down the country – enough to fix millions of potholes.

“This year we’ve made £58.7bn available to local councils, a £5.1bn increase on last year, the majority of which is un-ringfenced and can be used on local priorities such as road maintenance.

“We’ve also brought in new rules to clamp down on utility companies leaving potholes behind after carrying out street works.”

But Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Louise Haigh, warned: “The prime minister posed as a friend of the motorist – but his broken promises have left millions of potholes on our roads.

“Lined up side by side, the giant Tory pothole would stretch from London to John O’Groats and back again.

“After 13 years, Tory promises, just like our roads, are falling apart.”