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UK councils' pothole filling records revealed

Potholes 2

Councils which filled in the most and the least potholes during 2018 have been revealed.

Data extracted from freedom of information requests made to every council in the country, excluding the islands of Anglesey and Orkney, showed that Harlow Council filled in the fewest potholes during 2018 (24), according to the Conservative Party.

At the other end of the scale Northumberland County Council topped the list, having filled in 69,506 potholes during the year. 

Other councils at the bottom of the list include Slough Borough Council (800 potholes filled in), Milton Keynes Council (1,118), North East Lincolnshire Council (1,125) and Luton Borough Council (1,146).

Meanwhile, Lincolnshire County Council (54,873), Cambridgeshire County Council (52,984), Gloucestershire County Council (48,343) and Oxfordshire County Council (33,014) filled in the most potholes across the country.

However, Harlow Council has disputed its inclusion in the list. A spokesperson for the council said: “Harlow, as a District Council, is not the Highways Authority. Therefore it is not responsible for the maintenance of the vast majority of roads in Harlow which includes all designated highway and main roads.

”This is the responsibility of Essex County Council. As a landowner we are responsible for and carry out repairs to a small number of roads within some housing estates in Harlow which include garage areas and car parks. Harlow Council, as land owner, is responsive to requests for repairs made by its residents.”

A spokesperson for Luton Council also told New Civil Engineer, she was “disappointed” in the Conservative Party’s use of the figures. She insisted that instead the council was acutally performing above the national average when it came to filling potholes.

The spokesperson said: “Official national performance figures which have been completely ignored clearly show Luton is above the national average when it comes to maintaining our road networks,” the spokesperson said.

“2% of Luton’s main road network require resurfacing; the national average in England is 3%.

”14% of Luton’s residential roads require resurfacing; the national average is 16%.

“It makes direct comparisons between large county councils and unitary authorities; the latter having far larger highway networks and who will inevitably identify more potholes to repair. It also completely fails to identify the actual performance rate of the authorities referenced.

“In Luton during 2018/19, all reported potholes that met the criteria for repair were repaired within 24 hours. The council has a robust regime of inspections with four highway inspectors who inspect all the main roads monthly and other roads six monthly, or yearly.

“Luton is investing over £2.6M every year to prevent potholes forming in the first place. This includes a combination of road surface treatments to prolong the life of the carriageway and an annual carriageway resurfacing programme. This is in line with the Department for Transport ‘s own principle of highway authorities adopting maintenance strategies to prevent potholes.”

The data also shows that Conservative-led councils filled more than 740,000 potholes in 2018 compared to the 290,000 filled in by Labour-led councils in the same year.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Conservative councils are streets ahead in fixing the roads people rely on to get around, with Labour councils seriously lagging behind.”

“Across the country, it’s Conservative councils who have a proven record of managing taxpayers’ money wisely and providing better local services,” he added.

However, a spokeswoman for Slough County Council said Grayling’s statements were based on a direct comparison between the figures for potholes filled by each council in 2018, which was “misleading”.

“Doing a comparison based entirely on numbers misses anything to do with performance,” she claimed.

As an example, she added: “The reason [Slough’s] level of potholes filled is low is because we have hardly any roads.”

Earlier this month Brighton and Hove City Council was awarded £440,000 for demonstrating good practice in its fixing of potholes, under the government’s Highways Maintenance Incentive Fund.

Experts have previously warned that poor quality roads with potholes could hold back the progress of autonomous vehicle development.

But in January it was revealed that the number of potholes on local roads in the UK has fallen by 27% since 2016

Grayling has also argued that utilities companies should be held to account for pot holes on their sites. Companies will be forced to repair road surfaces for up to five years if potholes develop on the site of roadworks, under the proposals tabled by Grayling. Utility firms’ roadworks are currently only guaranteed for two years. 

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