The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to create a highways maintenance emergency fund following the recent spate of heavy rain and flooding.
Councils, including North Norfolk and Pembrokeshire, are calling for the government to help cover the repair bill estimated to run into hundreds of millions of pounds following the extreme weather this winter.
The severe weather has left behind a trail of destruction to coastal defences and infrastructure and caused further damage to already dilapidated highways.
Based on initial information supplied to the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s ALARM survey of council highways managers in England and Wales, the estimated road repair cost of this most recent spell of flooding is around £400 million. Full results will be published in April 2014.
Following severe flooding in 2007 a fund was created and was designed to help affected local authorities with capital funding for emergency and unforeseeable capital works to their local roads network.
The LGA is warning that vital investment in local growth and infrastructure projects could suffer if government does not step in to ease the cost of flood repairs.
North Norfolk District Council estimates the total cost of the storm surge will be more than £3m while Pembrokeshire Council’s initial estimates put the cost of the storm damage across the county at £500,000.
In Newquay, Cornwall Council is assessing the damage to key infrastructure including the collapse of Towan Road.
Councillor Mike Jones, chair of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said:
“Councils have worked round-the-clock since the bad weather began last month to protect residents and minimise disruption and will continue to help those who remain affected by flooding.
“The severe weather has left behind a daunting trail of destruction for councils to clear-up and fix. We were already facing a £10.5 billion repair backlog to bring our highways up to scratch and the damage to our roads by this recent flooding will be considerable and costly.
“While we are pleased the Bellwin scheme will be activated, the fact remains that Bellwin is severely limited as it does not cover most capital costs. An emergency highways maintenance fund would provide essential support to those councils who now face hefty and unexpected repair bills as a result of the flooding.
“These bills are likely to place significant financial pressures on already stretched council finances and it is vital that local communities are not left to suffer as a result.
“Local communities and local economies need to recover as quickly as possible. This can only be achieved through extra government cash which covers repairs excluded from the Bellwin scheme.”
The Bellwin scheme is administered by central government and will reimburse councils who spend more than 0.2% of eligible expenditure on flooding, up to an 85 per cent limit. However, there are a number of exclusions which apply, most notably capital funding.