An extra £4m is set to be poured into patching up Lancashire’s potholes after the blight of bumpy roads was decreed to be the “main concern” of residents.

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet agreed to boost the budget for highway repairs after receiving an earlier-than-expected windfall from the sale of some of its buildings.

The authority is also investing a further £1m in the replacement of road signs and markings that are deemed a safety issue in their current condition.

The pothole cash will be split across two different schemes – both of which are designed to reduce the need for repeat visits to problem areas where multiple defects have appeared in close proximity to each other.  The funding will also be used to respond to road issues raised by residents and county councillors.

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) revealed in March, Lancashire is on course to have 105,000 pothole-type defects across its highway network by next year at the current rate of deterioration.

A report presented to the cabinet meeting at which the new cash allocation was agreed revealed that the problem has been driven by the amount of rain that fell on Lancashire over the winter period – 175 percent more than the seasonal average.  Water is the main cause of pothole formation.

Deputy county council leader Alan Vincent said there was no doubt that Lancastrians regarded repairing the roads as one of their top priorities.

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“The residents of Lancashire have made it abundantly clear to all of us – of every [political] party – that their main concern in relation to services being provided by Lancashire County Council is for highway improvements to be effected.  Therefore, unsurprisingly, we are listening to that cry for help,” County Cllr Vincent said.

Of the £4m from what are known as ‘capital receipts’ – the sale of council assets – £2.5m will be used to fund what the authority is calling ‘responsive patching’.  The county council is pledging to make good quality repairs to localised areas, of around 25 square metres in size, where the surface is in poor condition and multiple potholes have already been filled in.

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The remaining £1.5m will be used to bolster County Hall’s Local Deterioration Fund (LDF), under which similar repairs are carried out, but over a slightly wider area – usually a patch that can be completed within a day.

Those schemes are prioritised according to the number of defects, how many repeat visits they have required and the volume of compensation claims and complaints received – along with the route’s strategic significance.

The LDF already has £4.6m allocated to it for 2024/25, but as the LDRS reported earlier this year, it is almost ten times oversubscribed for the amount of work that could be carried out under its umbrella.

Speaking to the LDRS ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Conservative cabinet member for highways and transport Rupert Swarbrick said he hoped the funding increase would deal not only with more defects, but also address some of the public’s frustrations with potholes and how they are rectified – including the fact that individual potholes are not usually eligible for repair unless or until they are at least 40mm deep.

“People do get frustrated when they see a [council] team go out and they fill a hole that’s 90mm deep, but leave the one next to it that hasn’t reached [the] intervention level.

“[These schemes will mean] we’re not going back to the [other] one [later] – and we don’t end up with that ‘sticking plaster look’, we end up with a proper piece of repair.

“[We will] dig out [the area] with a steel saw, make straight edges and make [the surface] good.    That will [ensure] a longer-term repair.

“I [have] witnessed those processes – and it’s very quick and efficient,” County Cllr Swarbrick said.

He also stressed that public reporting of potholes via the Love Clean Streets app – and to the county council directly – would feed into decisions on how the extra funding is spent.

However, the nature of the two schemes means issues will be dealt with as they appear throughout the year – so there will be no upfront list of the roads that can expect attention in the same way there is with the pre-planned resurfacing schemes the county council carries out each year and on which £11.7m is being spent this year.

The extra cash will take the authority’s highway maintenance budget to £37.4m for 2024/25, which includes cash for streetlight, traffic light and bridge repairs.  It also includes £2m earmarked for reactive repairs to potholes as they appear – which are expected to swallow up a further £8m in day-to-day spending.

County Hall has previously acknowledged that the minimum amount of funding required to manage its highways assets to a “sustainable” level is estimated to be between £51.2m and £56.2m – far short even of the now boosted total at its disposal.

Asked whether potholes really should be the priority for any spare cash the county council has, County Cllr Vincent – who is also the cabinet member for resources – said that, along with schools and transport to school for children with special needs and disabilities, highways was the subject residents had given the authority a clear message about.

“The public are…[saying]:  ‘This is what we want you to do with any surplus – we want you to make these roads better,’” County Cllr Vincent said.

He also pledged that if the financial situation allowed – as a result of reducing costs and making savings – then more money could be expected for Lancashire’s roads  But he told the cabinet he would not raid reserves for that purpose, because “that is the way of madness”.

Later Labour’s shadow cabinet member for highways and transport Kim Snape said the Tories had been “shamed” into stumping the extra cash after voting against a Labour amendment to the county council’s budget in February which proposed a one-off £10m use of reserves to address the most urgent highway issues facing the county.

“We welcome any additional funds into our roads.   However, the administration ridiculed the Labour group at the budget meeting in regard to our amendment – and because they’ve done so poorly at the local elections across the county, the Tories have had no option but to backtrack and put this forward,” County Cllr Snape added.

Also at the budget, the Liberal Democrats had proposed reducing the depth at which potholes become eligible for filling in from 40mm to 20mm, at an estimated annual cost of £4.5m.

Recent data from the Office for Local Government, published by The Times, ranks Lancashire County Council 54th in a league table of local authority performance when it comes to looking after the roads. While the table lists all 317 councils in England, only just over 150 of them are actually responsible for the highways in their area – with Lancashire’s rating putting it just within the top third.

County Cllr Vincent points to the data as evidence that the county’s roads sometimes endure a bad reputation amongst residents largely because locals often “don’t see what [the] roads are like anywhere else”.

“If they were comparing us with other places, they would find that we were actually doing a good job – [but] I appreciate fully that they probably wouldn’t think it was a good job,” he said.

He also acknowledged that the authority was not achieving its own aims, because it “want[s] to be in the top 10”.

Meanwhile, County Cllr Swarbrick stressed that County Hall’s in-house team of road repairers “do their best and are desperate to do more” – and had been enthused by news of the additional cash as a result.

“[They] do actually have a bit of a tough time, public perception wise,” he said.

“[For instance], we have a statutory duty to tend to a deep pothole – we have to fill it even if it’s pouring with rain.   The problem is, because it’s pouring with rain, the fix doesn’t happen. So we might be back there in another couple of days, which does appear to be wasteful – but we have no alternative but to go and do that work.

“Hopefully, by [also] spending additional money on drainage works and moving the water away from the road surfaces…we’ll be able to stop the roads deteriorating in wet weather, because the water will be being shed off the carriageway,” County Cllr Swarbrick explained

It is understood some of the extra work that will be generated by the authority’s increased investment will be used to bolster ‘find and fix’ teams – roving road workers, on the lookout for defects, whose services are supplied under contract with third party providers.


For the financial year 2024/25:

£11.7m – on pre-planned resurfacing schemes

£10m – estimated cost of repairing potholes greater than 40mm in depth as and when they appear

£6.1m – for the Local Deterioration Fund (including £1.5m of new money) to deal with areas that require repeat visits and those problem spots reported by county councillors and the public

£2.5m – new money for ‘responsive patching’ to repair localised areas of around 25 metres squared.

£1.5m – on drainage improvements