Large pothole. Photo: Alan Stanton/CC
Large pothole. Photo: Alan Stanton/CC

Max McGee, Nuneaton Socialist Party

Few politicians today factor in the cost of running a car or motorbike. MPs can have their transport paid for by us – in taxis or on public transport – on top of their over-£90k salaries. Is it then any wonder that the state of the roads in Britain today is crumbling? 14 years of Tory government austerity and Labour councils’ complacency has led to 2 million potholes needing fixing – up 43% from last year. And the National Highways Agency has scrapped 69 roadwork projects planned for the 2020-25 period.

The AA dealt with over 630,000 pothole-related accidents in 2023, the highest in over five years. Even the Department of Transport admitted that 451 people were seriously injured or killed in accidents involving potholes between 2018-22. There is already a nine-year backlog in road repairs across the UK. When our roads become risks, working-class people are the ones who pay through expensive repairs, injuries and income lost waiting on the side of the road.

This is just another example of the failure of austerity, and the capitalist system that demands it, to provide a smooth road to stability in life. While those at the top get richer and richer, we get broken public services and crumbling infrastructure. Capitalists will try to make the most profit in the shortest time possible, even if means self-sabotage in the long term.

In 2015, just five years after austerity began, potholes alone were causing £70,000 of damage to emergency service vehicles, including fire trucks and ambulances completely scrapped due to costly suspension and spring repairs, and collisions sustained due to evasive action taken around large cracks and potholes in the road, some as long as one metre!

It would cost £16.3 billion to solve the UK’s pothole crisis, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance. Road maintenance is still a minimum legal duty of local councils, so even councils like Birmingham which have declared they won’t provide services they aren’t legally mandated to, would still have to pay for repairs. But council budgets for highway maintenance have only gone up an average of 2.3% this year – with inflation, a real-terms cut.

We say no to more council tax rises on working-class people and to kick profiteers out – bring road maintenance back under public control. We call on councillors to demand the funding we need from central government, not pass on Tory cuts, to fully fund all local services including public transport and maintenance.