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Local Roads

Volume 596: debated on Thursday 11 June 2015

Road condition statistics for 2013-14 show an improvement to the local road network, with fewer main roads requiring maintenance than a few years ago. The funding of just under £1 billion that we are providing to councils this year––enough to fix up to 18 million potholes––should continue that trend. I am launching a pilot today, and when we launch the scheme next year it will provide councils with an incentive to ensure they are being as efficient as possible and that taxpayers’ money goes further. That incentive will add up to £578 million by 2021.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his promotion. Local residents are delighted with improvements to the A13 and A127, and with the record amount of money dedicated to road improvement, which is helping to deal with potholes. Will my hon. Friend reassure the House that road safety is a top priority, with particular regard to crash barriers?

I can most certainly provide that reassurance to both my hon. Friend and the House. Road safety is at the heart of our programme; in fact, it was detailed as a key objective of our road investment strategy. Work on road safety was the first work I commissioned in the Department, which I did within hours of starting. I hope that that shows my personal commitment to this subject.

I am very pleased to hear that funding will be made available to councils to enable them to repair potholes. I receive regular complaints about the condition of my local roads, with potholes a major issue. I am not going to name each road individually because they are far too numerous to mention, but when will the funding be made available to Rochdale Council so that it can maintain the roads to the standard my constituents expect and deserve?

We have already announced a very generous scheme. This year, a needs-based formula is allocating £901 million across England, of which the hon. Lady’s council has already received more than £2.4 million.

Potholing has taken on a new meaning in the Ribble Valley and, quite frankly, it is dangerous when done in a car, on a bicycle or on a motorbike. The Minister mentions the £15 billion going into the road investment strategy. Cannot some of that money now be diverted, not into new roads but into existing roads to ensure that the potholes are filled once and for all?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in December a fund of almost £6 billion to take us up to 2021, running at £976 million per annum, to support local highway authorities with their highway maintenance. I am sure the feedback that I suspect we all receive from our constituents will be supportive of that.

The issue is not just about resources; it is about making sure that utility companies undertake proper reinstatement when they dig up the highway. Will the Minister look again at whether the regulations in respect of utility companies opening up the highways can be looked at afresh, so we can ensure our roads are reinstated to their proper condition?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very interesting point and I would be very happy to take that forward.