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Potholes and Road Maintenance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:56 pm on 16th March 2010.

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Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Minister of State (Department for Transport) 10:56 pm, 16th March 2010

I congratulate Anne Main on securing this debate on the maintenance of our road networks. She has raced through a number of disparate issues in her speech and if she feels that I do not respond to any of her points during the course of my speech, I am happy for her to write to me and I shall respond in writing.

Roads are the heart of our transport system. They are the universal service on which everyone, whether pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist or other vehicle user, relies. They are the heart of our communities, too, and the local highway authorities are responsible for more than 98 per cent. of the roads in this country. Motorways and trunk roads carry a third of the nation's traffic and half of its heavy goods traffic, often over great distances. Such journeys essentially bypass the towns and villages along their way, and it is right that a national organisation, the Highways Agency, should run those major arteries. By contrast, local roads have a different function. They are right by where we live and work, where we walk the dog or where we pass the time of day with our neighbours, so it is important that the local authorities that are responsible for them recognise the importance of keeping them in good order.

Local highways maintenance is a major business. In the financial year 2008-09, English local highways authorities spent a little over £5 billion on running and repairing their networks, covering everything from major bridge repairs to paying the electricity bill to keep the street lights on. That money pays, too, for the salt to keep the roads clear and for the repairs to the potholes that the hon. Lady has been talking about this late evening.

Central Government help in that process by providing funding. My Department provides capital support to authorities as part of funding their local transport plans. Over 10 years of local transport plan funding, the Department for Transport has provided about £6.5 billion in capital spending support for English local highways authorities outside London. The real-terms increase in capital allocations to local authorities since the introduction of the local transport plan settlement is 135 per cent. This year, local authorities outside London have received £755 million for capital maintenance works in that way, and there has also been funding for major maintenance schemes and projects under the private finance initiative.