William Eichler 23 May 2024

RAC: Councils take ‘wildly differing approaches’ to potholes

RAC: Councils take ‘wildly differing approaches’ to potholes  image
Image: Flystock / Shutterstock.com.

Local authorities take very different approaches to deciding whether potholes get fixed, which means many go unrepaired, according to the RAC and Channel 4’s Dispatches.

Almost a third of the 206 councils in Britain with responsibility for roads fail to state any criteria online for repairing potholes, while 35% list specific pothole depths and sometimes widths that would trigger a repair.

Just over a third (37%) say they take a ‘risk-based approach’ to deciding which potholes to fix and how quickly.

The variety of approaches to fixing potholes means that action might not always be taken when a driver reports damage to the road.

‘For a long time, we’ve advised the public to report each and every pothole they come across to their local authority, not least as a council can refuse to compensate for damage caused from hitting one if they can prove they didn’t know it existed. But unfortunately, as this analysis shows, just reporting a road defect doesn’t guarantee it will get fixed,’ said RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis.

‘In some cases, councils state a pothole needs to be sufficiently deep or wide to be considered for repair. This can be enormously frustrating for anyone who comes across one, reports it but then witnesses it get even bigger and more dangerous as it didn’t quite reach a council’s threshold for repair.’

Mr Dennis acknowledged councils were ‘in an incredibly difficult position’ due to funding shortages.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) estimates that £16.3bn is needed to tackle the backlog of carriageway repairs and bring the road network up to a standard where it can be efficiently maintained.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), said local authorities were ‘on the side of all road users’.

‘Many factors affect repair rates, such as the road profile, traffic levels and available budgets. Councils would much prefer to focus on preventative repairs but only greater, year-on-year long-term funding certainty for maintaining all parts of our highways will help them achieve this.’

He added: 'The Government should award council Highways Departments five-yearly funding allocations, on a par with National Highways, to give them more certainty to develop resurfacing programmes and other improvements to help prevent potholes in the first place.’

Check out AIA chair Rick Green's feature: The great pothole repair failure.

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