A piecemeal, stop-go approach to funding for road maintenance has made it difficult for highways authorities to deliver maintenance cost-effectively over recent decades, the Public Accounts Committee has said.

In a new report on roads maintenance published this week, the committee said the DfT’s “unpredictable and fluctuating” budgets for road maintenance had put value for money at risk, with a £1.2bn cut to budgets over the four years from April 2011 stemming from the 2010 Spending Review being followed by additional funding totalling £1.1bn being made available over nine occasions since.

The report acknowledged that the Highway’s Agency’s forthcoming transformation into a limited company would provide more funding certainty with settlements of at least five years, but called on the DfT to “hold the new Highways Agency to account for delivering the improved value for money that should be achievable”.

It added that the HA should develop longer-term plans for preventative maintenance and streamline its annual planning process to spread work more evenly across the year.

The committee also called on the DfT to keep to the long-term budget allocations it has set out for local highway authorities in place, to allow them to plan ahead more confidently.

The DfT had not responded to a request for comment as this story was published, but a spokeswoman for the HA told us it had "reduced maintenance costs by 29% with no deterioration in the road network" and that a recent AA survey indicated that a majority of road users think main roads are in pretty good condition "which suggests we are making the right decisions".

"We agree that continuity of funding is essential to continued improvement and this underpins the measures going through parliament at the moment to change the Highways Agency into a government owned company,” she added.