Taxpayers face £12bn pothole bill as Putin’s war takes toll on Britain’s roads

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Meanwhile it will take at least 10 years and £12billion to bring the UK’s road network up to scratch – with councils facing massive increases in costs due to spiralling inflation and the increase in energy costs, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned today.Joint research undertaken by the LGA and the Association for Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) says the cost of street lighting, filling potholes and building new roads has soared.

This can partly be attribute to Putin’s invasion, prior to which an estimated 60 per cent of bitumen, a material used to repair roads across the country, was sourced from Russia and sold onto the European market.

Since February, councils have had to ration the supply of the material and source it from other markets, pushing up costs and delaying road repairs.

Councils are also reporting increased costs for electricity, steel, lighting and cement are all impacting on their budgets.

To compound the situation still further, areas preparing for winter have been hit by an increase of 60 per cent in the cost of salt. 

Cllr David Renard, Transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: “As this stark new analysis shows, councils across the country are facing unprecedented increased costs to repair our local roads, keep our street lights switched on and invest in improved local infrastructure.

“Global pressures, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as increasing inflation and a shortage of materials have all provided the perfect storm for councils and piled pressure on already stretched local budgets.

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“Local authorities are doing all we can to identify additional funding to meet rising costs, but without a change to funding allocations from government, the funding gap problems that lie with local councils will worsen dramatically, increasing the risk of some schemes failing.”

He added: “Of course, it’s not just major schemes. We face the same risks and issues with other grant allocations such as Bus Service Improvement Plans and Active Travel Schemes, where allocations based on bids made last year will not cover the cost of delivery.

“Without government support, some local authorities will have to prioritise highways maintenance and call a halt to new schemes.”

The analysis has found that:

  • Councils have seen a 37.5 per cent increase in the cost of running and repairing street lights over the last six months, with some authorities reporting that their running costs have doubled
  • The cost of road maintenance has also increased, with a number of councils seeing a 22 per cent increase in the cost of repairing a pothole, relaying a road surface and other maintenance costs
  • Councils capital budgets, which support the building of new roads and other local infrastructure, have had an estimated rise of 21 per cent, pushing up the cost of delivering investment in local areas.

Councils are warning that global issues have had a particular impact on costs.

The LGA, who represent over 350 councils in England and Wales, is calling on the incoming Prime Minister – either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak – to help meet these additional cost pressures in full as part of any new budget measures introduced.

Local councils are already facing a decade-long road repairs backlog and a consequent bill of £12 billion – which the increased cost pressures could exacerbate.

Previous LGA analysis, published in June, showed that councils were facing £3.6 billion of unforeseen extra cost pressures onto council budgets in 2024/25 due to rising inflation, energy costs and the cost of meeting the new National Living Wage.

The estimates come from a snap survey of around a dozen “upper tier” councils, along with analysis of current market prices.



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