THE Government has been criticised after funding to fix potholes and maintain roads in West Yorkshire has been slashed by 22 per cent.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority has said its transport maintenance funding for 2021/22 has been reduced by £10.2 million, from £46.7m in 2020/21 to £36.5m.

It said the “disappointing” 21.8 per cent decrease will have a big impact on local communities, making it harder to carry out road maintenance, which is desperately needed on vast stretches of Bradford’s roads.

The Government announced £500m for highways maintenance earlier this week as part of its five-year £2.5bn Potholes Fund, with Transport Minister Baroness Vere saying it would allow “potholes that blight road users to be dealt with promptly”.

Councillor Kim Groves, chair of WYCA’s Transport Committee, said: “We are disappointed that maintenance funding for transport has been cut by the Government.

“Here in West Yorkshire, in a year which has seen unprecedented demand on local council budgets due to the pandemic, this will place further pressure on councils and their ability to maintain roads, ultimately affecting all road users.

“We have real concerns what this cut could mean for our communities. Local authorities rely on this funding to carry out vitally important road repairs and maintain the condition of their road networks, which affect all users, including pedestrians.

“Our councils are under a lot of pressure to tackle a backlog of road repairs, made worse by recent bad weather.

“The reductions will also impact on the maintenance of pavements, street lighting, bridges and drainage – these are all things that affect people’s day to day lives.

“Not only do these cuts risk the safety of our communities, but will also make it harder for local councils to maintain the condition of new and important road schemes. In particular, we have concerns around what these cuts could mean for the maintenance of cycling schemes

“In partnership with our local authorities, we have been consistently clear in our commitment to reducing the number of cars on our West Yorkshire roads, for a greener, cleaner future.

“We are bringing forward schemes to support public transport and cycling and walking.

“Cuts to transport maintenance will hamper local authority’s ability to maintain the condition of these positive schemes in the future.

“We implore the Government to consider our concerns ahead of the upcoming budget next month.”

Mandy Parker, membership secretary at East Bradford Cycling Club, said potholes are a major issue for both motorists and cyclists alike.

She said: “Potholes are a huge safety issue; if there are potholes where cyclists usually ride on the roads, we have to pull into to the middle of the road to avoid them.

“While we’re entitled to ride here it gets in the way of motorists who sometimes can get angry.

“The Council is short of money so it has to try and save money somewhere, so cutting this fund won’t help.”

She said that riding through a pothole can seriously damage a bike, and when it has rained it is impossible to gauge how deep potholes are.

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for planning, regeneration and highways, said: “I have serious concerns about the significant impact these cuts will have on our ability to keep up with the necessary maintenance to our roads, particularly after the recent bad weather.

“Now is not the time for the government to embark on yet another austerity drive when we already have a maintenance backlog from the underfunding we have received from central government over the past decade.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said following the November 25 Spending Review the Government “rightly prioritised the response to Covid-19, support jobs and supporting families at this incredibly difficult time”.

She added: “Funding for pothole fixing and road maintenance is still very significant; the Government committed £1.1bn to local roads maintenance in 2021-22, including this £500m allocated from the Potholes Fund.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the Government was forcing council’s to hike taxes after going back on its promises.

He said: “It appears the Government is trying to quietly scale back its promises to councils and do them out of the cash they desperately need.

“Local authorities are being forced into economically illiterate tax hikes while motorists are left to contend with problems that will take more than a decade to fix.”