By Daniel Hunter
Months of rain and floods have devastated roads across the country, leaving councils facing multi-million pound repair bills.
Council leaders are warning the urgent nature of the repairs could leave their already stretched annual budgets in disarray. Funds may have to be diverted from other areas to plug the gap, meaning unforeseen cuts to services or new infrastructure projects to boost growth being put on the back-burner.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, is calling for the Department for Transport to set up an Emergency Capital Highways Maintenance Fund, as it did following the floods of 2007.
As well as cracks and potholes, the persistent wet weather has caused large sections of roads, pavements and footpaths to collapse, bridges and tunnels to crumble and overwhelmed drainage systems to break.
Some authorities are facing bills of several million pounds and current figures are only preliminary estimates meaning the actual costs are likely to be higher.
In response to recent severe flooding, government announced the Bellwin Scheme — a source of emergency financial help for councils — would pay out a higher percentage of councils' costs to help them get stricken communities and businesses back on their feet. Councils will still be left millions of pounds out of pocket though, and Bellwin does not cover road repairs which are not eligible because they are classed as capital spending.
"The relentless rain and flooding we've endured over the past few months has left our road network in disarray," Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, Chair of the LGA, said.
"Across the country new potholes and cracks have opened up, carriageways have completely collapsed, bridges and tunnels are crumbling and overwhelmed drainage systems have broken.
"The true scale of the damage is still coming to light but some councils, who were already managing severe budget cuts, are facing bills of £10 million to make their roads safe. This is money they hadn't budget for and don't have lying around, but not carrying out these repairs isn't an option.
"Bellwin funding is a huge help to councils in supporting flooded communities and businesses to get back on their feet, but it can't be used for major road damage. Some councils are facing near impossible decisions to further reduce already stretched services or cancel plans for much-needed infrastructure projects to boost growth.
"We know times are tough, but we also know government has money available. Many councils urgently need financial support to help them repair their ravaged roads and get local growth back on track."
Newcastle City Council - £9 million
Devon County Council - £5 million
Northumberland County Council - £1.4 million
Join us on