Council boss confident despite road repair cash cuts

Government funding to repair damaged roads in Northumberland has been cut by nearly a quarter – but a council boss says there will be extra work done this year.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 10:39 am
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 10:42 am
Northumberland is getting its road repair cash cut

Northumberland County Council is to receive £21.8m to maintain roads in 2021-22, the Department for Transport has announced – £6.6m less than the £28.4m provided in the current financial year – a reduction of 23%.

But the council’s Conservative council leader, Cllr Glen Sanderson, said: “To be clear we haven’t seen a reduction in road maintenance funding and in fact the allocation of £21.8m from DfT is higher than we had assumed in our draft programme and will enable extra highway maintenance works to be undertaken this year.

“It’s very much business as usual in Northumberland and over the past four years the council has invested significantly - over £109m in highway maintenance works.”

He added: “Last year we welcomed an additional 'one-off' extra highway maintenance funding from the Government of £28.4m but knew this would not be the level we’d receive each year.

“Maintaining the County's roads and footways is a key priority for us, and we’ve already allocated £15m from the council’s own financial resources to support a two-year enhanced maintenance programme for minor roads and footpaths across the county which started last year which is making a significant improvement to our road network.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic the Government has provided an extra £7.2bn in funding to councils to spend on local priorities.

In addition, Northumberland will share in a £14.1m allocated to the North East Combined Authority for transport improvement projects such as road safety schemes, cycle ways and bus lanes - an increase of £108,000 compared to this financial year.

Nationally, road maintenance funding has been cut by £400m for the coming year, with £1.1bn being handed out to councils and combined authorities.

The funding includes £500m to repair potholes, with £9.7 million going to Northumberland County Council as part of its allocation.

The DfT estimates the money for Northumberland could repair 194,000 potholes.

But the County Councils Network, which represents England's county councils, says the pothole fund should not mask an overall reduction in maintenance funding.

Cllr Barry Lewis, economic growth spokesman for CCN, said: "The Government has given with one hand and taken with the other, as the overall funding pot for roads maintenance will fall compared to last year.

"Our councils rely heavily on this capital funding to help tackle the backlog of road repairs and to ensure their road networks are in a good condition Unless further funding is made available, our councils will have no choice but to reduce roads maintenance work this year."

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said: "This can only lead to roads deteriorating further and being in a worse overall state than they are now.”

A DfT spokesperson said: "We know high-quality local roads make a difference to people's lives, which is why we have committed £1.125bn to local roads maintenances for 2021-22, including £500m will allow the equivalent of 10 million potholes to be rectified by local councils."