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Volume 580: debated on Thursday 8 May 2014

In the 2014 Budget, the Government announced a £200 million pothole fund for the financial year 2014-15. Some £168 million is being made available to councils in England, including up to £10 million for London. This is enough to fix over 3 million potholes. The fund is a competition, and bidding guidance was published on 24 April detailing how local authorities can submit their bids to the Department for Transport by 22 May. This is in addition to the £4.7 billion that we are providing for local road maintenance in this Parliament.

Medway council has filled nearly 4,000 potholes in just over 10 months, so it will welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement. However, Medway has also been affected by the emergence of sinkholes, including one at Rainham Mark grammar school. What are the Government doing to address the emergence of sinkholes across the country?

I am aware that a number of sinkholes appeared across the country during this year’s severe winter weather, including those that my hon. Friend has mentioned. The Government have been working, and will continue to work, with the British Geological Survey on sinkholes. It is important that any lessons learnt are shared with local authorities and other transport operators to ensure that our infrastructure has greater resilience against future severe weather events.

Residents in the Queensbury, Northwick Park and Preston wards in my constituency would be very grateful if part of the remaining £50 million from the fund could make its way to the potholes in their wards. They would be even more pleased if those roads with extensive potholes could have a complete surface repair, because they are fed up with seeing potholes repaired one year and then having to be re-repaired the next winter. The money should be spent on solving the problem comprehensively, not addressing it in a piecemeal fashion.

I agree entirely. Some councils have shown excellent ways of doing that through a holistic approach, and I commend them for that. I was in Northampton recently to see what the local council has done there. It has taken on board the point the hon. Gentleman makes. I hope that other authorities will do likewise.