Hampshire County Council has welcomed a recent report by the Local Government Association identifying that, across the country, 9.5 million more potholes could be repaired with the funding that has been cut from road maintenance budgets
Councillor Rob Humby, the County Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and the Environment, said: “Earlier this year, I highlighted the Government’s intention to reduce funding for councils in 2021/22 to look after local roads.
This will mean our maintenance services, which are already overstretched, will struggle to pay for much needed repairs next year and many planned improvement works will not now go ahead.”
Looking after Hampshire’s network of over 5,500 miles of road is one of the County Council’s top priorities, but, over the years, national funding for local road repairs has fallen to the point where the funding gap is now around £3m to £5m each year and much of the local network, particularly in rural areas, is in a state of accelerating decline.
Councillor Humby added: “We know that keeping our roads in good condition has a positive impact on people’s quality of life and plays an important role in supporting the local economy.
This is why we have established our Operation Resilience programme, investing money to improve the most badly affected parts of the network. However, the benefit of this is diminished when national funding is reduced.
“Dealing with the effects of COVID-19 has put significant financial pressure on council budgets. With rising demand for social care services further stretching the County Council’s finances, and decisions quite rightly made to prioritise reduced resources to the most vulnerable, services such as highways – which are widely used by the majority of residents – are losing out.
“To help us slow down the decline of the local road network, it is vital for the Government to provide adequate investment; I am sure most road users would agree with me that this is definitely not the time to be cutting road maintenance funding. Hampshire is not alone – local authorities across the country have seen a significant drop in highways funding and are collectively calling on the Government to increase its funding for essential local roads. Local Highway networks are fundamental infrastructure that supports local economies and carry over 90% of trips in Hampshire.
“Road condition affects all users including cyclists, pedestrians and bus passengers as well as cars, motorcyclists and goods vehicles. Whilst Government funding for new transport ideas is welcome, it is essential that the importance of maintaining the local road network is properly recognised.
As we plot a path to economic recovery from the pandemic, this is ever more urgent.”
Hampshire County Council invests an additional £10 million each year in its planned maintenance programme, Operation Resilience – a long term strategy to make Hampshire’s roads more resilient to the effect of extreme weather and heavy traffic.
For the current financial year, an additional £3 million of investment had been agreed to ensure more improvements can be made, but this money will now be needed to make up the funding shortfall from the Government.
The report by the Local Government Association can be found here