COUNCILS could be forced to shut roads – if they cannot keep up with pothole repairs.
That was the stark warning last night from across the country as the demand for repairs soared to new levels.
And the leader of Kirklees Council admitted the same could happen in Huddersfield, despite the authority’s best efforts.
Clr Mehboob Khan said: “Councils who are in poor financial health and do not get the grants from the Government will be forced into a situation.
“It is not scaremongering. Councils end up having to pay out compensation for pedestrians and motorists if roads are not safe and that cannot be allowed to happen.
“If roads cannot be repaired they could have to close”.
Much of the local road network could become unusable should there be more flooding or another severe winter, highways bosses are warning.
Crumbling carriageways are costing small businesses £5 billion a year and some local roads might have to close unless more Government money is made available for resurfacing, said the Local Government Association (LGA).
It said that last year council highways teams fixed 2.2 million potholes – 500,000 more than the year before.
In Kirklees , highways teams are repairing hundreds of potholes every week but the money allocated to their repairs is dwindling.
Clr Khan said: “We spent 100% of the Government money allocated for highways on road repairs but the funding has been cut by 40% in the last two years.
“Local taxpayers are also being forced to pay for the compensation claims for incidents involving potholes.
“Any decent society needs a good transport network, with a smooth passage from A to B and routes for commuters that are safe and easy to use.
“Investment in the roads is paid back by higher tax levels from business and a reduction in carbon emissions.”
The LGA said that, despite their efforts, the backlog of repairs was growing longer, now estimated at £10.5 billion with one in five roads classed as being in “poor condition”.
It added that alongside “decades of under-investment from government”, the key factor was recent freezing weather and flooding which has caused an estimated £1 billion damage.
The LGA said: “Further severe weather could now lead to a tipping point in many areas where roads will become so damaged they will have to close.”
The LGA has written to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander asking him to provide greater capital funding for road maintenance “to turn around the spiralling decline”.
Peter Box, chairman of the LGA’s economy and transport board, said: “The case for proper funding to resurface our roads is a no-brainer.
“The short-termist approach of successive governments of underfunding local road maintenance, coupled with severe weather over recent years, has taken its toll. Now we’re facing unprecedented budget cuts, things are only getting worse – something plain for all drivers to see.”