Survey shows 24,000 miles of roads need maintenance and identifies £556m shortfall

A new study has revealed one in five roads in England and Wales have less than five years’ life remaining as cash-strapped local authorities continue to face huge funding shortfalls to repair roads in terrible condition. 

Findings published today shows that 12% of the local road network, that equates to 24,400 miles, is in need of “essential maintenance” within the next year. In England and Wales, 20% of roads have less than five years’ life remaining, which is up from 17% last year and emphasises the increased struggle of councils to fund maintenance work.

The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey which was produced by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) aims to take a snapshot of the general condition of the local road network, while questioning the amount of funding available to address the issues. The 23rd annual report highlights that you could drive almost around the world on the length of roads in England and Wales that could fail in the next 12 months.

Councils in England and Wales report that the gap between the funds they received and the amount they actually needed to keep the carriageway in reasonable order was almost £556m – a shortfall of £3.3m for every authority. It’s estimated a one-off cost amounting to £9.3bn would be needed to get roads back into a reasonable condition.

Rick Green, chairman of the AIA, said: “Local roads are a vital asset, worth in the region of £400bn, and they support all aspects of our daily work and home lives. But funding for their adequate maintenance has fallen short for so many years that further deterioration is inevitable.”

The RAC has responded by stating Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) receipts should go towards fixing local roads as well as funding motorway and major highway repairs. 

RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes said: “This latest report clearly highlights that the shortfall between what councils need to fix the roads, and the cash they actually have at their disposal, is as enormous as ever. In just two years’ time, motorways and major roads will enjoy ring-fenced funding from VED receipts. If just a fraction of existing fuel duty revenue was ring-fenced specifically for local roads, over just a few years enough could be raised to allow councils to make proper, lasting repairs that are fit for the 21st century.”

Commenting on the study, director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, (CECA) Marie-Claude Hemming said: “The total backlog in maintenance work on our local roads network has increased by up to £2bn in just the last two years. Not only must we undertake urgent repairs to local roads, but the scale of the challenge is such that the Government must re-think how repairs and maintenance of this national asset are funded. To ensure there is sufficient finance for highways maintenance on our local roads, we have long proposed the wider use of prudential borrowing.”

For more information on potholes, please visit the RAC guide here.

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email