Suffolk: County roads pledge despite spending cut

The county is spending more on repairing roads after problems with potholes.

The county is spending more on repairing roads after problems with potholes. - Credit: Archant

Transport chiefs in Suffolk have insisted that the county is bucking the national trend after new national figures showed that government support for road maintenance is being cut dramatically.

The Local Government Association produced figures showing that the Department for Transport’s support for local councils’ highways maintenance was falling from £871 million in 2010/11 to £707 million in 2014/15.

That has co-incided with bad winters – and prompted the LGA to warn that more support needed to be given for road maintenance.

However in Suffolk the budget for road repairs has increased in recent years – especially with extra grants being made available for specific issues.

The county had planned to retain its road repair budget at last year’s levels, but the government gave it an extra £3 million which was invested in repairing roads that had had a serious pothole problem.

It is now undertaking a major programme of new asphalt and surface dressing on roads across Suffolk during the summer in the hope that fewer potholes will develop in the winter.

Cabinet member for transport Graham Newman said: “We’ve already started our comprehensive annual road surfacing and maintenance programme.

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“We approach roads maintenance in a pragmatic way, assessing their state, prioritising areas in need of work and undertaking the most appropriate treatments.

“This means that whilst facing increasing financial pressures on the council, we’re able to make best use of public money to keep our roads network functioning.

“The county council recognises the importance of our roads to the local economy and people’s day-to-day lives. That’s why we invest significant resources each year to repair and maintain them.”

The county is spending £8 million on major surface dressing projects at 90 sites, and is spending £5.5million on laying tarmac and chippings at a further 210 sites.

It had also undertaken a three-week blitz on potholes at the end of the winter, repairing more than 2,000 across Suffolk.

Nationally, the LGA warned the government needed to support major repairs to roads to prevent more damage.

Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “The case for proper funding to resurface our roads is a no-brainer.

“The short-termist approach of successive governments of underfunding local road maintenance, coupled with severe weather over recent years, has taken its toll.

“Government cutting funding for roads is a very high risk strategy as the longer you keep simply patching up a deteriorating surface the more vulnerable it becomes to severe weather.

“Unless something changes we risk swathes of Britain’s road network becoming dangerously strewn with potholes or collapsing completely.”