Britain’s network of patchwork roads are crumbling faster than they can be repaired, warn councils, as the nation faces a 14-year pothole repair backlog.
That’s the verdict of the Local Government Association (LGA) which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales.
Its members are calling for the government to hand over an extra £1 billion a year to help roads be maintained and repaired in the face of rising traffic, especially on motorways which have recorded a 10 per cent increase in traffic volume during the past decade.
Councils managed to patch up two million potholes in 2016. However, the huge numbers involved, and longer repair times, mean that they face a 14-year wait before they could clear the backlog. In 2006, the backlog was estimated to be 11 years.
The LGA highlights statistics from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which says councils needed to spend nearly £12 billion on road repairs last year. That’s a £2bn rise over the past four years, and estimates suggest that by 2019, the bill will climb to £14bn – three times more than the annual revenue LGA members have to spend on highways maintenance.
Councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds last year
Councillor Martin Tett, LGA Transport spokesman, told Which? that the situation was so serious that councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds last year.
The LGA is calling for the government to invest 2pence per litre of existing fuel duty into roads maintenance.
Cllr Tett said: “This year could be a tipping point year regarding potholes and councils, who have experienced significant budget reductions, now face the looming prospect of a bill of £14 billion to bring the nation’s roads up to scratch.”
Payouts to 90 drivers a week top £12m
The pothole plague is causing serious damage and inconvenience to drivers, and is leaving them and councils out of pocket.
The Sun revealed that councils are paying compensation to 90 drivers a week for damage caused by potholes. It says that over the past four years, the compensation bill for bumpy roads has hit £12m.
The figure relates to 19,000 settled compensation claims, averaging £650 per payout. However, alarmingly, more than 5,800 are still pending – and only a third of councils replied to Freedom of Information requests.
Surrey tops the pothole compensation table
The council facing the highest number of payouts, between 2012 and 2016, was Surrey. It handed out £1.24m to motorists. Following close behind was Essex, which faced a £1.23m bill.
Severe potholes can destroy a car’s tyre, wheel and costly suspension components. Warranty Direct, an aftermarket provider of car warranties, claims that the cost to British drivers is £2.8bn a year. Yet councils reject around 75 per cent of drivers’ claims for compensation.
Warranty Direct offers advice on how to claim for damage suffered to a vehicle, and also how to report a pothole so that councils are aware that it requires attention. Drivers are more likely to be compensated if a pothole had previously been reported to a council.
If your car has suffered pothole damage, find a garage to fix it here.
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.