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Local Government Finance: Potholes

Volume 746: debated on Monday 4 March 2024

5. If he will make a comparative assessment of trends in (a) the level of local government financial settlements and (b) the number of cars damaged as a result of potholes in the last 10 years. (901764)

We have made available up to £64.7 billion for local authorities through the 2024-25 local government finance settlement. Local authorities can decide how to spend the majority of that funding. The Government are also investing more than £5 billion into local highways maintenance in this Parliament. In October, we announced a further £8 billion to fix our roads.

GoCompare’s recent pothole report described the potholes in Tory-run Derbyshire as the very worst in England. The Conservative council leader was clear in his view that it is funding decisions from central Government that have forced the county to adopt what he called the totally ineffective “sticking plaster and patching approach”. He said that the funding from the Government

“doesn’t touch the sides of the issue for counties”

across the country. Why should Derbyshire motorists pay a Tory pothole tax, with tyres, springs and suspensions all constantly needing repairing as a result of the state of our roads?

For the hon. Gentleman’s benefit, let me repeat those figures of £5 billion for local highways maintenance and the additional £8 billion announced in October. That will fill holes, including in Derbyshire and his constituency, to support motorists, the economy and people going about their business.

It is normal in these circumstances to invite a Minister to visit a constituency. The Minister is welcome to visit my constituency, The Wrekin in Shropshire, and the Telford and Wrekin borough, but if he visits the Telford and Wrekin borough bit, could he bring a spare tyre? The potholes there are enormous. I thank him for allowing £32 million to be released over the next 11 years to ensure that those potholes are filled. Rather than a pothole tax, may I thank him for the pothole fund? Finally—[Interruption.] I will not give a “finally”, but he is very welcome to visit. Bring a spare tyre!

As I struggle with my Lenten observations, I need no lessons about spare tyres—it is all about trying to get rid of spare tyres, as far as I am concerned. I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s comments. The Wrekin is a part of Shropshire that I know well. Those sums can and should be used by upper-tier authorities, which are the highways authority, to ensure that their networks are working well, smoothly and safely. That benefits all, and the Government are putting up the money to allow them to do that.

Public service workers and local leaders across the country are working incredibly hard to improve their local areas and provide vital services, so rather than the begging bowl culture that makes them bid for money, will the Minister take forward Labour’s commitment for a long-term, more secure funding settlement to allow them to plan for the future?

I am intrigued by what the right hon. Lady proffers to the House. Only a few weeks ago, in the debate on the local government finance settlement—none of her colleagues apart from the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), who chairs the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, and those on the Front Bench could be bothered to turn up and speak on it—the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), who is sitting next to her on the Front Bench, said:

“As I will come on to say shortly, we will have a review to look at the long-term plans. We understand the problems that local government is facing.”—[Official Report, 7 February 2024; Vol. 745, c. 326.]

May I say to the right hon. Lady that part of the job of being in Opposition is to work out the policies that she may want to deliver in government?