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Local Roads

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 22 November 2018

The Department for Transport is providing over £6.6 billion to local highway authorities in England between 2015 and 2021 to improve the condition of local roads. That includes a £296 million pothole action fund and the additional £420 million for local highways maintenance announced in Budget 2018.

Many councils now use technology to enable residents to report road-related problems. Will my hon. Friend encourage the greater use of digital apps and technology tools to make councils more accountable for the road issues in their area?

I am well aware of my hon. Friend’s interest in technology and the potential ways in which it can improve productivity. He is absolutely right, and I encourage all councils to use technology better as far as possible for residents to report road-related problems. As he will be aware, they do so in Hampshire, where the county council uses an online reporting tool, but the Department has also done work to support this, not least through assistance to Cycling UK to revamp its pothole reporting website.

I hope that the Minister will find £60 million for County Durham. In the meantime, new estates are being built without proper roads. Instead of overseeing this 21st-century squalor, will he talk to his colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to require the planning rules to be changed so that roads are built to adoptable standards?

The hon. Lady will be surprised to know that there is a housing infrastructure fund that is in part precisely designed to facilitate the relationship between road building and new housing, and of course, that is what it is doing.

It is not so much the condition of local roads but the amount of obstructions on them, from double parking to kerbside parking to parking in bus and cycle lanes. Rather than waiting for traffic management orders, which can be quite binary, to come into place, would it not be better for the Department to issue guidance on the definition of “obstruction”, so that more local authorities can deal with it in a flexible way that means that motorists are not being penalised in an unreasonable manner?

Gosh, I am going to resist the temptation to bring in the casuists to discuss the question of how obstruction is to be defined, but I direct my hon. Friend, without giving too much of a sneak preview, to the work that we have done—announced today in a written ministerial statement—on the cycling and walking safety report, which includes enforcement against parking in mandatory cycle lanes for precisely the reasons that he indicates.

This week is Road Safety Week, yet investment on minor roads has fallen by 40% since 2010 and the number of potholes is rapidly increasing, leaving 17% of local roads in England in poor condition, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance. The Department’s own figures show that there have been 13 deaths and 192 cyclists seriously injured since 2010 on roads that have a defective road surface. In this week of all weeks, how can the Government defend their record on maintaining local roads?

I am not sure where to begin with that. If the hon. Gentleman looks carefully at the work of the RAC Foundation, he will discover that, in relative terms, the number of potholes on our roads spiked between the years 2005 and 2010 and has been coming down slowly but steadily, more or less, ever since.

Is the Minister in all sincerity denying the evidence of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which carried out a detailed survey of local authorities, which showed that there is a backlog of a minimum of £9 billion of work on potholes?

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman might want to look at a wider range of sources than just the Asphalt Industry Alliance for his information about the use of asphalt in filling potholes, but the issue is a serious one. He will know that I have made clear my interest not merely in an in-year road settlement of £420 million for potholes, which the Government have just passed and which is highly welcome, but in a more strategic approach to local roads funding over the next five years.