TOWN halls across the region were handed more than £18m of government cash yesterday (Tuesday, December 18) for road maintenance - amid warnings of a looming "pothole crisis".

The department for transport handed out grants ranging from £2.8m for County Durham to £434,000 for Darlington and £221,000 for Hartlepool, spread across two years.

But the cash - a slice of £215m for local highway authorities across England - is just a third of the estimated £600m of damage caused to local roads from a severe winter.

And it follows a £432m cut in road maintenance budgets across the country, in 2011-12 - at the start of the government's controversial cuts programme.

Last month, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned of the spread of dangerous potholes, if the government failed to overhaul the way roads maintenance is funded.

Some councils have changed guidelines, so that only larger potholes are filled in - or complaints are not answered as quickly - in a desperate attempt to save money.

Announcing yesterday's cash, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "This extra money will support economic growth and development by, helping local authorities to get the best out of their local road networks."

The allocations follow this month's autumn statement, when the Chancellor announced a £333m fund for road repairs - on top, he said, of £3bn for councils, between 2011 and 2015, for highways maintenance.

However, in order to receive the new money, local councils will be required to explain how it is being spent, by publishing information on their websites.

Of the £215m, £140m will be handed over for the next financial year, 2013-14, with the remaining £75m following in 2014-15, Mr McLoughlin said.