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Road Resurfacing

Volume 750: debated on Thursday 16 May 2024

The Government are firmly on the side of drivers, which is why we are using funding reallocated from the HS2 programme to improve the condition of the country’s local highways network. Our record funding increase of £8.3 billion for local highways maintenance in England over the next decade will enable highways authorities to resurface roads and fix thousands of potholes across the country.

The Secretary of State and his Ministers are well aware of my campaign for the removal of the concrete surface of the A180. It is now six years since I received a letter from the then roads Minister telling me that the work would be completed by the end of 2021. Can the Secretary of State tell me when work will begin to remove that concrete surface and make the road much safer than it is at present? Can he give me a firm date?

My understanding is that the A180 is part of the National Highways concrete roads programme and that there is a plan to undertake additional treatment to reduce noise substantially early in the next road investment period, which starts next year. My hon. Friend may wish to meet the roads Minister to discuss the matter in more detail and secure some specific information about the timing.

As my right hon. Friend knows, Shropshire’s road network is the fifth longest in all the English local authority areas. Last autumn, he made a welcome announcement about a significant increase in funding—£150 million—to repair and improve roads, and he made another in February about the HS2 reallocation of £136 million. Will he explain to me, and to other Shropshire Members, what that will mean in practical terms for the amount to be spent on roads during the next Parliament?

My right hon. Friend is correct: Shropshire County Council will receive two pots of money, a minimum uplift of £153 million from 2023 to 2034 for highway maintenance and a further £136 million under the new local transport fund, starting next year and continuing for seven years. Those figures represent a significant increase on what the council would otherwise have received. We will provide more detail shortly about the guidance on how the money should be used and, as I have said in response to earlier questions, Members of Parliament will be involved in setting those priorities.

Somerset is unfortunately home to tens of thousands of potholes. Persistent flooding makes the problem worse, but so does the lack of attention given to improving the resilience of our roads. Does the Secretary of State recognise the importance of future-proofing them, with specific funds for local authorities to spend on measures of that kind, as opposed to pothole funding that serves only as a temporary sticking plaster?

I am pleased that the hon. Lady has asked that question, because I absolutely do. Part of our purpose in not only giving local authorities that significant funding increase but spreading it over 10 years, so that they have certainty over a longer period, is to enable them to move away from dealing with pothole filling and to embark on a proper road resurfacing programme. That funding will pay for the resurfacing of more than 5,000 miles of roads, thus delivering to the hon. Lady’s constituents the improvement that we all want to see.

Residents in West Fenham recently said to me that car mechanics must be the main beneficiaries of Conservative transport policy, given the steady flow of work for them caused by the terrible state of the roads. A local authority survey says that the roads are in their worst condition for 28 years, and AA call-outs are at a five-year high. How can the Secretary of State possibly say that he is on the side of drivers when the roads are in such a terrible condition?

The hon. Lady has just demonstrated why our decision to allocate a very significant and unprecedented increase in spending to improving local highway maintenance is exactly the right thing to do. I have noticed that my local authority is busy resurfacing roads across my constituency and the rest of Gloucestershire. The money we are providing will enable every local authority to do that over the coming decade.

At the last Transport questions, the Secretary of State suggested that drivers know what they are getting with a Conservative Government. Well, drivers know one thing they are getting from this Government: more potholes—a hundred times as many as there are craters on the moon. In 2023, RAC patrols attended 33% more breakdowns related to poor road maintenance than in 2022, and AA call-outs were at a five-year high. The road repairs backlog has gone up to an eye-watering £16.3 billion, which is far greater than his allocation of money from scrapping the northern leg of HS2. Is it not abundantly clear to drivers, and to everyone else, that it will take the election of a Labour Government to fix Britain’s roads, just as it will take the election of a Labour Government to fix Britain?

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has asked that question, because we have set out our plan very carefully. There is £8.3 billion of extra money to improve the quality of local roads. The Labour party has not backed that plan and has not committed a single penny of money to local roads, so the choice is clear: if people vote Conservative, they get £8.3 billion spent on roads; if they vote Labour, they get none.