You may have watched BBC Breakfast on today, Saturday morning and choked on your Frosties when you heard that there are plans to raise fuel duty by two pence to help pay for pot hole repairs. This is totally wrong and FairFuelUK and I would be apoplectic at such a suggestion. We corrected their mistake directly with the producer. Subsequent reports have changed. The real story is that the Local Government Association wants the Government to take two pence from their existing fuel duty and VED revenue and put it into road maintenance. Which, broadly is a very good idea although Mr Osborne may not be enthusiastic. But the fact remains that the £100 plus million recently earmarked by the Government to be spent on urgent pot hole repairs is a rain drop echoing in an ocean given that there's a £12 billion backlog in road maintenance across the UK.
But the important story that everybody missed is that vast amounts - in some counties as much as half - of the money meant to repair our crumbling, pock-marked roads is being spent by councils on compensation for damaged suspension and wheels caused by pot holes. These claims are running at epic levels. By neglecting our roads so shamefully, the little money available to repair them is now being wasted on compo claims caused by that very same neglect. Am I just an idealist or is there a really stupid, unforgivable and ridiculous irony here? Watch this space because this is something we all need to know about - soon.
Here is the LGA release misreported by the BBC:
INVEST FUEL DUTY TO ALLOW COUNCILS TO FIX OUR ROADS WITHIN A DECADE
Investing fuel duty back into road maintenance would allow councils to bring our crumbling highways up to scratch within a decade, town hall bosses pledge today. The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said the Government could inject a further £1 billion a year into roads maintenance by investing just 2 pence per litre of existing fuel duty. This should not be paid for by increasing fuel duty rates.
This could help councils tackle the damage done to our roads by recent harsh winters and decades of underfunding by successive governments which has seen the national backlog of road repairs rise to £12 billion – up £1.5 billion in the past year alone.
The Government has recently responded to council calls for extra funding to repair our roads which include giving councils a share of a £168 million fund to fix potholes last month. However, this is simply not enough to free councils trapped in an endless cycle of only being able to patch up our deteriorating network which will always be more expensive than longer-term preventative work. Next week’s LGA Annual Conference, the biggest event in the local government calendar, will see councils unveil a blueprint for the next government to tackle the key issues facing the country including how to fix our deteriorating roads.
The LGA said it is time for government to commit to vital long-term investment by handing councils a slice of fuel duty cash for road repairs and maintenance. Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said: "Our roads are in such disrepair that it will now take more than a decade and £12 billion to bring them up to scratch. Tackling this ever-growing national repair bill must be a priority and the Government can do this by injecting an extra £1 billion a year into roads maintenance - funded by investing 2 pence a litre from existing fuel duty. "Motorists pay billions to the Treasury each year in fuel duty when they fill up their car at the pumps only to then have to drive on roads that are decaying after decades of under funding. They deserve roads fit for the 21st century.
"Reinvesting a small proportion of fuel duty would allow councils to bring our roads up to scratch over the next decade. Councils are fixing around 2 million potholes each year despite funding cuts and multi-million pound compensation costs for pothole damage but are trapped in an endless cycle of patching up our deteriorating network. "This is leaving our country sleep-waking into a roads crisis that is escalating at an alarming pace. It will only get worse with the Government’s own traffic projections predicting a potential increase in local traffic of more than 40 per cent by 2040. Long-term and consistent investment and better use of motoring taxation is now desperately needed to allow councils to provide widespread improvement of our roads.”