COUNCILS across the region could miss out on future economic growth unless they increase investment in road maintenance and repairs, it has been claimed.

The warning comes after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to all local authorities across the country found a lack of investment could lead to "serious damage to infrastructure" which could potentially "annexe towns and cities from crucial development".

The figures showed some areas had seen an increase, with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council increasing spending from £1.9m in 2016/17 to £2.5m in 2018/19, and Hartlepool Borough Council’s spending rising from £1.4m to £2.1m in the same period.

However, Darlington Borough Council's response to the FoI request showed their spending had fallen by about 30 per cent from £339,735 in 2015/16 to £235,467 in 2017/18.

A spokesperson for the authority said the figures they provided were for spend on pothole repairs only, and they “actually invest significantly more in road maintenance and infrastructure in Darlington”.

They added: “In recent years we have invested significant additional funding in treating roads to prevent potholes forming.

“This has resulted in a reduction in the amount of potholes identified and the amount needing to be spent on them.

“We hope this approach will further improve our roads and ensure there will be less potholes on our roads in the future.”

The investigation was carried out by industrial paint and coatings firm Promain UK, who work with Highways England and other public sector organisations on projects all over the country,

Mark French, director of Promain UK, said it was “short-sighted” for local authorities to reduce the amount they spend on road maintenance and repairs, as "ineffective roads deteriorate with potholes and faded lines creating poor conditions for investment in communities".

He added “There are massive economic benefits to be had with effective road infrastructure in place. For areas to thrive, road connectivity is key to not only support people living and working within the local authority, but to attract new businesses, especially distribution-based operators, which rely heavily on transport infrastructure.”

“It is common knowledge that councils are facing severe spending cuts to their budgets, and these pressures may result in funding going on other services, but road maintenance and repairs should be seen as a priority that can lead to economic gains.

"Poor road infrastructure could potentially annexe towns and cities from crucial inward investment and developments to these areas, as a result.”

Figures for North Yorkshire County Council, Middlesbrough Council and Stockton Borough Council were not available as part of Promain's investigation.