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Investment in local roads maintenance

More funding needed for local road maintenance

Two thirds say motorways are maintained to a high standard but only 15% say local roads are well maintained

26 February 2018

Only 15% of drivers say that local roads are maintained to a high standard according to a study by the AA.

In contrast, two thirds (66%) of the 17,024 strong AA-Populus Driver Poll said that motorways are maintained to a high standard.

Three out of 10 (31%) say that major roads are maintained to a high standard.

  • Local roads in the North West appear to be the worst kept with only one in 10 (10%) agreeing that their local roads are maintained to a high standard.
  • Scotland and the East of England complete the bottom three (both 13%).
  • The regions with the highest proportion agreeing that local roads are well maintained were London (26%) and Northern Ireland (27%).

Pothole in road

Where is funding most important?

Seven out of 10 (72%) agree that local roads maintenance is overlooked in favour of motorways and major roads while almost half (46%) believe that local roads maintenance is more important than that of motorways and major roads. 

This perception is backed up by spending figures:

  • spending on local authority A-roads was up 15.2% from £1.240 billion in 2015/16 to £1.429 billion in 2016/17
  • spending on minor roads is down 10.6% over the same period - £2.088 billion in 2015/16 compared to £1.866 billion in 2016/17

It's also backed up by the much higher levels of spending on motorways than any other roads.

How best to tackle local roads funding?

When asked how best to tackle the funding problem, 70% of drivers say that the Government should increase spending on local roads without increasing taxes.

However, the frustration caused by potholes is clearly getting to drivers as almost half (49%) say they would support a small increase in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) as long as the additional cash was ring-fenced for upgrading and repairing local roads.

More than two fifths (44%) said they would support a small increase in fuel duty to help fund maintaining local roads.

More and more frustrated

Edmund King, AA president says; “Road users are getting more and more frustrated with the state of local roads, with moon-like craters troubling drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists on a daily basis.

“From 2020, all income from VED will be spent on maintaining our motorways and major roads, but there is already a £12 billion black hole which local councils need to fill just to get England’s local roads up to scratch.

Road users are getting more and more frustrated with the state of local roads, with moon-like craters troubling drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists
Edmund King, AA president

“Instead of allowing more money to be sucked into this black hole from compensation claims and  deteriorating roads, governments at all levels need to take one small step to tackle the funding problem and deliver smooth highways for road users. 

“As a starting point, the Government could heed the AA’s calls by retaining the freeze on fuel duty, but ring-fence 2 pence per litre from the revenue and hand it straight to councils solely to fix local roads. This would give councils a pot of £1 billion.

On a local level, councils could release fines income back to the roads they were plundered from
Edmund King, AA president

“On a local level, councils could release fines income back to the roads they were plundered from.”


* Populus received 17,024 responses from AA members to its online poll between 16 and 23 January 2018. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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