This paper describes the framework in which local authorities in England maintain and repair the road network. It also sets out the rights of utility companies and others to undertake street works and the powers available to highway authorities to manage and mitigate those works.Jump to full report >>
Highway authorities have a legal duty to maintain the highway; there is extensive guidance on how they should do this. There are ongoing concerns about the general state of the road network, the backlog of repairs and the cost of bringing these defects up to standard.
The Coalition Government reformed local authority funding for road repairs, which raised concerns in some areas about the sufficiency of the money available. The Coalition and Conservative governments have argued that it is up to local authorities to prioritise their spending. They also point to changes to how highway funding allocations are now calculated and specific discretionary funds for pothole repairs and maintenance.
Similarly, control of how third parties like utility companies carry out street works is the responsibility of the relevant highway authority. However, street works carried out by public utilities and cable companies are undertaken by virtue of a statutory right or a licence and do not need the prior consent of the highway authority.
Local authorities have powers to prevent roads from being dug-up repeatedly; can impose fines for non-compliance; implement a ‘permit scheme’ for street works; specify which route street works should follow and decide what day of the week and at what times works can be carried out. There is debate about the sufficiency of these powers or whether authorities are using them in the most optimal way.
This paper does not deal specifically with winter maintenance, which is covered separately in SN2874.cInformation on other roads-related issues can be found on the Roads Topical Page of the Parliament website.