CASH given to councils to fix potholes and maintain roads has been slashed by nearly £400 million, leaving North-East councils to top up funding themselves.

The move has sparked fears of a return to austerity as the County Councils Network (CCN), which represents county councils across the country and includes Durham and North Yorkshire, accused the government of breaking promises.

The organisation pointed the overall funding for roads maintenance will fall £398 million compared to last year. It comes as the Department for Transport (DfT) allocated £500 million pot to repair local roads in England in 2021-22, which it says could fill the equivalent of 10 million potholes.

The money is the second of five instalments forming a £2.5 billion potholes fund over a five-year period.

But the CCN pointed out that overall funding for road improvements, including filling potholes, fell from £1.783bn to £1.385bn – a difference of £398m.

Barry Lewis, economic growth spokesperson for the organisation, said: "The government's commitment to increase funding for potholes and local road maintenance by £500 million each and every year of this parliament was warmly welcomed by councils and MPs alike – who say the scourge of potholes are amongst their most frequent complaints in their mailboxes.

"However, the government has given with one hand and taken with the other.

"Our councils rely heavily on this capital funding to help tackle the backlog of roads repairs in their areas and to ensure their road networks are in a good condition: crucial to levelling up their areas.

"Councils are already facing unfunded additional costs from contractual arrangements due to the pandemic, while reducing planned works will negatively impact local employment and the economic recovery."

Potholes on the A167 Hurworth to Darlington Rd Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Potholes on the A167 Hurworth to Darlington Rd Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Durham County Council was allocated £14.84 million for its potholes filling and highway maintenance programmes. However, the money is specifically allocated and Durham has seen a shortage in its highway maintenance block.

Paul Watson, the council's strategic highways manager, said: "The Pothole funding allocated for the year 2021 to 2022 is what we expected based on last year's allocation, however the Highway Maintenance Needs Block element is less than in previous years.

"As a county with almost 3,800km of urban and rural carriageways and footways that require regular maintenance, we always need additional funding to maintain our assets. Any reductions in funding can have an impact on our ability to maintain the network but we do not have plans to cancel any approved works.

"We have an ongoing commitment to provide additional funding to that allocated by central government for the maintenance of our highway assets.

"We use all funding efficiently to ensure that any actionable defects are repaired accordingly, and that we provide our residents and other highway users with a safe network to travel on."

It comes as Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston unveiled an extra £750,000 to go towards fixing pothole-ridden roads.

Transport minister Baroness Vere said: "We know potholes are more than just a nuisance – they can be dangerous to drivers and cyclists alike, and cause damage to thousands of vehicles every year.

"The funding will help councils ensure roads in their area are kept up to standard, and that the potholes that blight road users can be dealt with promptly."