A report has revealed how much work was carried out by Wiltshire Council on the highway network of over 2,800 miles of road for which it is responsible.

As a local highway authority, the council must maintain over 4500 km of road, 3.9 million square meters of footway, and assets including almost 1,000 highway bridges and approximately 50,000 streetlights, illuminated signs and bollards and over 200 traffic signal-controlled crossings and junctions.

The local highway network is the biggest public asset managed by the council, with a replacement value of over £5 billion.

At the latest Environment Select Committee meeting, on Wednesday, March 20, attendees were presented with a report that detailed the work carried out by Wiltshire Council on highways last year.

This work included the resurfacing of 32 km of road and 2.4 km of footway and the retexturing of 9 km of road to improve skid resistance.

According to the report, the council also surface dressed 63 km of road and filled 14,891 potholes.

In addition, the highways service carried out 600 bridge inspections and delivered over 180 schemes promoted through the Local Highway and Footway Improvement Groups (LHFIG).

Whilst discussing the report, Councillor Nick Holder, Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “Looking back to 2023, it may well have been one of the toughest years for our highways team.

“Dealing with the winter of 22/23, after the baking hot summer, started the recent cycle of material highway deterioration we are now facing, followed by the 23/24 winter’s record-breaking rainfall, which has, and is still, adding to the difficulties we face in maintaining our highways.”

He added: “We are probably all aware of the level of criticism the council receives in this regard, but I think we should also be aware of the huge challenges faced, and the dedication of staff trying to resolve them with the resources available, with a continual focus on safety, and to ensure that’s in our minds, as councillors, when we talk to residents.”

However, Liberal Democrat Councillor Richard Budden argued that Wiltshire had “neglected to maintain its roads adequately.”

Regarding the coming year’s budget, he commented: “All the emphasis is on road surfacing and zero on the underlying rebuilding need.”

Councillor Holder responded: “There were no amendments brought forward to Full Council by the Liberal Democrats to increase spending on highways, so you can sit there and complain, but until and unless you come forward with an alternative financial proposal, I’m afraid that the budget that has been signed off and the allocation that has been made going forward will remain as it is.”

Conservative Councillor Stuart Wheeler said the amount of road worked upon last year was “a wholly inadequate response” to the length of highways the council is responsible for.

Councillor Holder said: “We all need to understand that the majority of funding that is spent on highways is allocated from central government; we’ve had an allocation of £20 million.

“The rebuilding of Lyneham Banks alone is going to cost nearly £4 million.”

He added: “If you are seriously asking us to rebuild the whole of the roads across the county, you are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds, and unless we have a transformative government in the next few years that finds a way of raising a significant amount of tax without bankrupting the economy, it is just not realistic to expect central government to give hundreds of millions of pounds to every single local authority to rebuild the roads.

“I’m sorry if that’s not what people want to hear, but it’s a fact of life, we can only spend what is giving to us by central government.”