The government slashed Lincolnshire’s roads maintenance budget by nearly a quarter earlier this year; now we want it back.
Following a motion put forward by Cllr Martin Hill during full council on Friday 10 December, the council voted unanimously to lobby government to reinstate the £12m it cut from Lincolnshire’s road maintenance grant in February 2021.
Each local highways authority receives their annual roads maintenance and pothole repair funding from central government. This funding comes from national taxation, including fuel duty.
In the 2019/20 financial year, Lincolnshire was allocated £51m maintenance funding. This was cut down to just under £39m for 2021/22. County councillors voted to fill the funding gap left by the government and allocated just over £12m from council reserves for this year.
As the Department for Transport begins looking at funding allocations for 2022/23, Lincolnshire County Council is now calling on the government to reinstate the 25% cut.
Cllr Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said: “It was incredibly disappointing when the government cut our highways funding by 25% this past February. We’re a large rural county and our residents place a huge amount of importance on well-maintained roads – something we’re doing our best to deliver but are struggling to fund.
“In fact, the Treasury’s own figures have consistently shown the East Midlands to be lowest funded region per head for transport in the UK. And if we were receiving the same level of funding as the UK average, we and our neighbouring counties would have an extra £1 billion to spend on transport every year.
“We need fairer funding for the residents and drivers of the East Midlands and Lincolnshire. We cannot continue to be overlooked.”
Local government has been at the forefront of government spending cuts for the last 10 years. During that time, Lincolnshire County Council has seen its annual government grants fall from £227m to £109m. In addition, the council has faced cost pressures of around £22-61m each year.
Since 2011, the county council has found savings totalling £354m. However, initial estimates suggest it will still face a cumulative funding shortfall of around £57m over the next four years. The only way to close that gap will be to increase council tax, draw on our reserves or find further savings – or more likely a combination of all three.
Cllr Hill continued: “Although we were able to offset this year’s highways cut by using funds from our own reserves, we won’t be able to allocate that money in the future.
“That’s why it’s essential that government reinstates this £12m – at the very least. This is the amount we need just to keep our roads at the level they are, let alone bring them to where they should be.
“We’ve been working closely with our local MPs to get the decision-makers in Westminster to hear our plea. We’ve been fighting for fairer funding for a number of years and, although the government has admitted there’s a need to reform local government funding, we haven’t seen any action.
“This is not something we’re prepared to endure silently, and I’d encourage residents to contact their MP too and demand a better deal for our roads.”
Cllr Richard Davies, executive member for highways, said: “We're doing everything we can to keep our county's vast 5,500-mile road network in good condition – but it’s simply not enough.
“Despite our best efforts and continued efficiency improvements in the way we work, it would cost around £400m to bring all our roads and pavements up to standard. Instead of recognising our need for additional maintenance funding, and maintaining their manifesto promise of ‘levelling up’, our budget was slashed by 25%.
“When Westminster brings in over £25 billion a year from fuel duty, it’s hard to understand why we’re having to pull from our reserves to do the bare minimum in maintenance. And, without sufficient funding, people will see our roads get worse and the local economy take a hit.
“That’s why we need the government to fix our funding so we can fix our roads.”
According to the county council’s highways team, the missing £12 million would pay for fully rebuilding 37 miles (80km) of road and 6 miles of footway per year, as well as filling 24,000 potholes.
On average, the council receives 3,000 highways fault reports per month. Since January 2021, we have filled 36,837 of potholes throughout the county, with 2,507 reported potholes waiting to be repaired.
In addition, according to the UK Road Liaison Group:
- DfT data indicates a decline in maintenance undertaken across the country’s local road network, with the roads classed as ‘minor’ affected the most – something which affects rural Lincolnshire more than most authorities.
- DfT data also highlights a reduction of strengthening works, with local authorities adopting short-term fixes to spread their budget across the aging assets they manage.
- Nearly one in three (31%) older adults (aged 65+) are prevented from walking more or at all on their local streets because of cracked and uneven pavements, equating to over 3.5million people in the UK. The new research found that half of older adults (48%) would walk more if their pavements were well maintained.
Cllr Davies added: “If things keep going the way they are, we could see a huge jump in unplanned roadworks, lessened safety because of potholes and other preventable issues and a big drop in the overall resilience of our road network. And that’s not to mention a loss of local young people interested in getting into the construction or engineering industries thanks to the negativity people rightfully have for our roads.
“On the other hand, an increase above the £12m reinstatement we’re asking for would mean less congestion on our roads, less damage to vehicles, a more thriving economy and an increase in people’s general health and well-being.
“Our ultimate goal is to get our roads in the best shape possible and keep them that way, but we can’t do that when a large part of our time and budget is spent reacting instead of preventing.
“As it stands now, 12% – or 660 miles – of Lincolnshire’s roads are in poor or very poor condition. However, if government doesn’t reinstate the £12m cut earlier this year, those percentages would all increase over the years.
“We simply can’t sit back and wait for that to happen.”
Lincolnshire residents can write to their local MP by visiting www.writetothem.com.