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Volume 591: debated on Thursday 22 January 2015

Potholes are a menace to all road users and that is why this Government are taking action. I announced in December 2014 that we are allocating just under £6 billion for councils in England to tackle potholes and improve local road conditions over the next six years. This funding is on top of the £4.7 billion we have provided since 2010.

Unfortunately, I receive lots of complaints about the state of local roads. I do understand that repairing potholes is very expensive, and I commend last week’s national pothole week. Despite the present strains on the economy, I ask my right hon. Friend that sufficient funds be made available so that local roads in Southend are kept in good order.

I pointed out in my announcement that Southend-on-Sea would get £7.3 million over the period I have just referred to. Despite the financial situation we found ourselves in when we entered government, we allocated 27% more for road repairs in this Parliament than the previous Government did in the last Parliament.

North Yorkshire has one of the biggest networks of rural roads in the country, and we are very grateful for the extra cash the Government have provided to help. Rural areas often have a large road network, supported by the small tax base of the rural population. Can the impact of rurality be better reflected in funding for future repairs to our road network?

I certainly understand the point my hon. Friend makes—indeed, I have a large rural constituency that has many similar problems. It is up to the highways authority to look after its entire network fairly. Account is taken of rurality and road usage in the various highways authorities when we allocate this money to them.

15. In Kent, we are grateful for the £142 million we are receiving from the highways maintenance fund. Will the Secretary of State join me in urging not just the highways authority but Kent county council to pay particular attention to rural roads in Kent? They have suffered terribly in recent winters and are in desperate need of this extra support. (907152)

My right hon. Friend rightly points out the allocation that has been made to Kent. As I said, in this Parliament we have increased by 27% what the previous Government spent on road maintenance, and in December I announced another funding increase of more than 20%. I hope that we see a fair sharing of it across the whole of the community—in both urban and rural areas.

The extra £86 million allocated to fix and improve Wiltshire’s roads over the next six years is very welcome. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that this is indeed additional money spent on our roads and that councils do not use it to top up their reserves, or displace money that otherwise would have been spent on roads to meet other spending pressures?

Overall, local authorities do take their highway maintenance projects seriously. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that one cannot argue for localism and then argue all the time for central direction. However, I very much hope that all authorities that have been allocated the money spend it on the roads. Some other funds are available, and we will judge what local authorities have done regarding how those funds are distributed.