The application form for the pothole fund requires authorities to supply a lot of information - not all of which is obviously related to highways maintenance or indeed potholes. If you’ve received a request to update a walking strategy by the middle of this week, there’s a good chance that this £168m funding opportunity is behind the increasingly frantic emails coming from the person in charge of highway maintenance. The information required touches on a number of service areas, and particularly in smaller authorities, officers may find themselves having to rapidly get up to speed with a topic some way outside their comfort zone
The timescales for the pothole fund (announced 24th April, closes 22nd May) will present many authorities with huge difficulties in getting proper internal approvals for their bids in advance of the deadline, partly because of committee cycles and internal decision-making processes, but also because the amount of funding that could be received is unknown at this stage. London Boroughs may wish to take advantage of their eligibility to bid for up to £10m of the fund, but could find that the convergence of the bidding timescales with the month before local elections makes this very tricky.
The announcement of this fund has come as something of a surprise to many practitioners, not least because it appears to go against the grain of focusing limited resources on prevention. Over recent years there has been a shift in the general direction of funding (and procurement) opportunities arising at very short notice, with significantly constrained timescales for submitting bids. With shrinking resources available to go through the rigmarole of filling out lengthy forms, many practitioners will find themselves asking the question “is it worth the effort?”
Head of Technical Development, PTRC
May has seen much coverage of highways issues in the mainstream media, following the publication of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA)’s annual ALARM report and the DfT’s announcement of a £168m fund for pothole repairs. Setting aside any cynicism about the structure of the pothole fund in the context of an approaching general election, and the requirement for authorities to provide monthly progress reports to central government in a supposed era of decentralisation and red-tape reduction, there are a number of more general issues raised by this funding opportunity.