On the campaign trail - Facts about road maintenance and funding

8 Apr 2024
Paul Fishwick

It’s election time and, lo and behold, all sorts of misinformation have started circulating.

One of the areas where the facts need putting straight is road maintenance. The Borough Council has a duty to maintain all adopted roads and pavements, the streetlights, traffic signals and signs associated with them. We have trained staff who periodically inspect them, and if they find something dangerous to the public, they will get it fixed. The speed with which the council fixes things depends on how much risk they present. The criteria we use to assess defects in the roads have been the same since 2019. This is called reactive maintenance and is revenue funded and the budget has not been cut.

We have a different budget for bigger issues, like resurfacing. It’s called the structural maintenance budget. The budget for this, for the last 6 years and coming year has been:


Period Government Grant Local capital borrowing
2018/19 £2,280,000 £0
2019/20 £2,280,000 £0
2020/21 £2,280,000 £3,850,000
2021/22 £2,280,000 £2,968,000
2022/23 £2,280,000 £2,126,000
2023/24 £2,280,000 £2,126,000
2024/25 £2,280,000 £2,126,000

Since 2012 there has been a whopping 61% increase in the length of our road network in the Borough. Yet the government still bases our funding on the length of road we had in 2012, even though we update them every year on what new roads have been built. And since 2018 they haven’t even increased our funding for structural maintenance with inflation.

No wonder that nationally the latest Road Maintenance study found that there was a backlog of over £16.3 billion for local road repairs, with the gap increasing by £2.1 billion since last year and nearly £4 billion over the last 2 years.
In the face of this terrible situation and public outcry, the government has made some small one-off increases. We have received an additional £418,000 in 2023/24 and expect the same in 2024/25, albeit this has been at the expense of the HS2 rail project which would have taken pressure off the roads in the north-west. We have also received a windfall of £589,000 which is being spent on road maintenance.

To put that into perspective, £418,000 will pay to resurface around a tiny 0.37% of our road network. But 14% of our roads are already assessed as in need of resurfacing, which will cost around £16 million. Therefore, the reality is that the additional government funding is a drop in the ocean and won’t even offset the ongoing deterioration of our roads let alone restore them to the standard we want. We do also put money into roads as a council. As you can see from the table above, in their final two budgets, including 2022/23, which was inherited by the Lib Dems, the Conservatives cut the council’s road maintenance, the first year by 23% and the second by a further 28%. Since then, despite the biggest financial challenges the council has ever seen, we have protected the road maintenance budget in cash terms over our two budgets. We have also introduced technical and project management innovations to make this money go further.

The Department for Transport statistics indicate that our roads are in above average condition when compared to other Councils’. This is because we choose to invest in them ourselves, which we do via capital borrowing each year to a similar value to the government base grant. Without that, our network condition would be far worse.

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