‘It’s good to be listened to’ – Highways chief welcomes budget pothole fund
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The county’s highways chief has welcomed an expected £420million in the budget for councils to fix potholes with the message “it’s good to be listened to”.
Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council deputy leader and cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs, spoke with Philip Hammond at the Tory conference earlier this month about the challenges faced by local authorities.
Mrs Evans said she feared there would be no pothole money in the budget and it was “very welcome news” to hear the expected announcement.
A harsh winter took its toll on the county’s roads, and extra council road crews were created to tackle the issue.
The chancellor is expected to tell MPs today that he is setting up a £28.8 billion fund to upgrade and maintain the country’s motorways and other major routes.
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The programme - to run over five years from 2020 to 2025 – will be in part funded by revenues from vehicle excise duty, the first time road tax has been ring-fenced for use on the roads network.
It outstrips the £17.6billion invested over the previous five-year period and represents a 40% increase in the budget of Highways England.
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A further £420m will be allocated to councils to fix potholes and carry out other road repairs.
Mrs Evans said: “The fear was that we wouldn’t be getting any pothole money so I’m very pleased that we are.
“I had a chance to have a quick word with the chancellor at the Conservative conference in Birmingham to speak about the challenges for highways, and it’s good to be listened to.
“We had an extremely bad winter, I think the gritting teams first went out in early November and were last out on April 30.
“When you consider that each pothole costs £100 to fix and we had more than 17,000 to deal with, it gives you an idea of the cost.”
Mrs Evans highlighted a county council pilot which aims to tackle more potholes at once, as well as cut the amount of temporary fixes used.
“The Highways Improvements and Innovations Board has just set up a trial to improve the process for inspecting and ordering pothole defects – and make the service more effective and efficient.
“So the announcement is very welcome news and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for the chancellor’s speech.”