Despite the fact that our road network has been ravaged by some of the most severe and wettest winters in history, our annual highway maintenance budget from central government has fallen steadily from £2.35 million in 2011/12 to only £1.961 million in 2014/15.
Next year’s settlement, trumpeted today by the Department for Transport, is less than we were awarded four years ago (even when we ignore the effects of inflation) and in 2020/21, we could receive as little as £1.871 million.
We estimate that it would cost around £100 million to halt the decline in Plymouth’s road network and bring it up to a satisfactory standard so this settlement is nowhere near enough and is certainly not something to celebrate.
Even if we were to secure the maximum ‘top-up’ monies from the DfT, based upon the efficiency of our services, this would only maintain funding at 2015/16 levels.
Limited amounts will be made available for major maintenance projects through a Challenge Fund, where all authorities in England will bid in competition. We have taken proactive steps to put ourselves in a strong position for this by commissioning a comprehensive condition and treatment survey of our entire carriageway and footway network.
The survey was completed a few weeks ago and the final results are due to be reported in the New Year. The information will be used to develop an action plan to ensure we can identify our long-term requirements and maximise our chances of extra funding allocations.
Councillor Mark Coker, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “We need significantly increased and consistent funding to invest in the widespread resurfacing projects the city needs and deserves. In the meantime we’re pulling out all the stops to make extra resources available and repair as many problem areas as possible.
“In 2013 this Council promised to invest an extra £20 million over 10 years to help address the severe damage inflicted on our roads. Despite significant cuts to our budget by the Government we’re spending more than £4.5 million on road repairs and resurfacing this financial year as part of this commitment.
“We’ve just completed a major resurfacing programme that has given 65 roads a new lease of life. We’ve also carried out preventative and protective micro asphalting on roads showing the first signs of deterioration and hired the Roadmaster, which repaired around 11,000 defects far more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional methods.
“Ten gangs have been working day and night to battle the pothole problem and almost 25,000 potholes have been repaired. We will continue our regular road inspections and emergency pothole repairs throughout the winter and are already gearing up for next year’s repair programme.
“Improving the condition of the city’s roads will remain a major priority for the Council in 2015 and we will keep pushing for significantly increased funding to do this.”