AN extra £3.5m provided by central government to fix Somerset’s roads will only have a “minimal” impact, according to the local council.

Transport secretary Mark Harper MP announced on Friday (November 17) that £800m would be spent on road repairs across the South West following prime minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to cancel the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link between Birmingham and Manchester.

This funding will be divided across local authorities across the region, with Somerset Council receiving more than £3.5m extra both this year and next year to resurface roads and fix potholes.

But the council has said the extra funding will have very little impact due to high inflation, and has called on the government to address “the fundamental, structural problem with local government funding”.

The cancellation of HS2, announced at the Conservative Party conference in early-October, has freed up £36bn for infrastructure projects across the UK.

Some of the funding has already been allocated to major projects in the south west, including the delivery of a new railway station in Wellington by the end of 2025 and improvements to the A38 between Bristol Airport and junction 22 of the M5 near Highbridge.

The additional funding for roads forms part of an £8.3bn national plan, with the Department for Transport (DfT) aiming to resurface more than 5,000 miles of road across the UK by 2034.

Somerset Council has been provided £3,546,000 to spend before April 2024, with a further £3,546,000 for the 2024/25 financial year.

A total of £111,039,000 of additional DfT funding has been made available between now and April 2034.

Somerset County Gazette: Somerset Council has been provided £3,546,000 to spend before April 2024.Somerset Council has been provided £3,546,000 to spend before April 2024. (Image: Daniel Mumby)

This funding cannot be used to make repairs to the A303 or M5, since these are managed by National Highways.

Speaking on Friday (November 17), Mr Harper said: “Most people travel by road and potholes can cause misery for motorists, from expensive vehicle repairs to bumpy, slow, and dangerous journeys.

“Our £800m boost to repair roads across the south west shows that we’re on the side of drivers.

“Today’s biggest ever funding uplift for local road improvements is a victory for all road users, who will enjoy smoother, faster and safer trips as we use redirected HS2 funding to make the right long-term decisions for a brighter future.”

The RAC has welcomed the announcement, claiming it will benefit drivers and encourage active travel by creating surfaces which are smoothers and safer for cyclists.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “We hope local authorities will use the money in the most effective way possible by resurfacing the very worst roads, keeping those in reasonable condition in better states for longer through surface dressing, and filling potholes as permanently as possible wherever necessary.

“This should in time go a considerable way to bringing our roads back to a fit-for-purpose state and saving drivers hundreds of pounds in the process from not having to fork out for frustrating repairs to their vehicles.”

Somerset Council has welcomed the additional funding, but said that it was unlikely to make a considerable difference to local residents due to persistent high inflation in the construction industry (which includes asphalt and Tarmac manufacturers).

It has also declined to provide a breakdown as to where in the county the initial funding would be directed.

Read more: Somerset Council leader writes to residents amid ‘financial emergency’

A spokesman said: “This funding will be used to address a backlog of highways maintenance and improve assets such as bridges, pavements and traffic signals.

“It should be noted that the additional funding being made available for this financial year only just covers general inflation costs – so, while welcome, its impact on what we can do will be minimal.

“This ring-fenced money does nothing to address the fundamental, structural problem with local government funding as our costs rise much faster than our ability to raise income.

“We are one of the growing number of councils facing a financial emergency with an expected increase of £70m in adult social care costs next year. This is a national problem which needs a national solution.”

The council’s executive committee will meet on December 6 to consider initial budget proposals, which may see significant cuts to front-line services – including its existing highways budget.