Northern councils lose out on £125m to fix roads

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The North of England has missed out on almost £125m of Government funding for repairing its pot-holed roads over the past three years owing to a disputed funding formula which continues to favour the south.

New figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal councils across the North have received on average 15 per cent less funding for road maintenance per head of population than their southern counterparts since the start of 2011/12.

As a whole, northern councils would have received an additional £124.5m over the past three years for repairing local roads had they received the same per capita funding as those in the South.

“This is another example of a significant North/South divide in Government transport funding, and it is resulting in Yorkshire’s population getting what is literally a rougher ride – while for people in the south it’s a much smoother journey,” said Coun James Lewis, who chairs West Yorkshire transport authority Metro.

The DfT says road maintenance money is allocated using a complex formula based around the types of roads and bridges in each local authority area.

But with a majority of councils telling the Government in a recent consultation that its current approach is unfair and must be overhauled, the department says the formula is now under review.

Penistone and Stockbridge’s Labour MP Angela Smith, who sits on the All Party Parliamentary Group for road maintenance, attacked the coalition for “protecting its own backyard” in the face of ongoing spending cuts.

“No one should be surprised that this Tory-led Government gives northern councils around 15 per cent less than their counterparts in the South for road maintenance,” she said.

“After all, it now seems to be the norm that we in the North get much less for all areas of funding.

“As with other areas of spending, this Government is intent on protecting its own backyard to the detriment of northern councils.”

In total, northern councils received £736.9m for pothole repairs over the three-year period – equating to £51.24 per head of population. Councils in the South received £1.2bn over the same 
period, equating to £59.90 per head.

Hilary Benn, the Shadow Communities Secretary and MP for Leeds Central, said: “The huge disparities between regions when it comes to transport spending must be dealt with. Ministers have got to get moving on this.”

The only area excepted from the figures is the city of Sheffield, where council leaders recently signed an unprecedented £2bn PFI deal with a private contractor to overhaul and maintain 
the city’s roads for the years to come.

The deal was agreed under the previous Labour government – but Ms Smith said the coalition has since cut its own contribution.

“Even in Sheffield, where the council was successful in negotiating a PFI deal to improve the city’s roads, this Government cut its contribution to the scheme, despite the city being recognised in having some of the worst roads in the country,” she said.

The DfT insisted its formula is based on the “likely need” of each local area’s roads, but that it 
was now under review following the consultation with council chiefs.

A spokesman said: “We are investing just under £9bn in local road maintenance in England.

“We don’t allocate maintenance funding based on population but on likely need, based on road length and likely bridge and lighting repairs. If an authority has a larger highway network to maintain they will receive a higher proportion of funding.

“We are reviewing the funding.”