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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 January 2008, 10:35 GMT
The pitfalls of not repairing potholes
Keith Doyle
BBC News

Pothole (Courtesy of CTC/
Figures suggest councils spend as much on compensation as repairs

There are so many potholes on our roads that it would take more than 11 years at the current rate to fill them in, and that is just England and Wales.

Local authorities say they do not have enough money to sort out the problem.

Councils, which are responsible for most roads that are not motorways and trunk roads, say they try to fill them when they know about them but the AA says that is not always the case.

Nationwide the Automobile Association estimates there are hundreds of thousands that councils know about but have not repaired.

AA president Edmund King said: "Last year in London alone there were 35,000 potholes that were reported and not filled in, so we can only estimate across the whole of the country there must be hundreds and thousands of potholes not being filled in."

The information superhighway is also full of potholes as disgruntled road users nationwide report them.


One site launched just over a year ago by the cycling group CTC has logged almost 10,000.

It says it knows 2,000 have been dealt with but have no more information on what has happened to the rest.

CTC says the problem is that councils do not have enough money to fix the potholes and need more government funds.

Figures from the AA and the road builders' association, Asphalt Industry Alliance, suggest local authorities are now paying out as much in compensation for damage and injury from potholes are they are on filling them in.

The backlog of work plus the escalation in costs means that we haven't got enough money to solve the problem
David Sparks
Local Government Association

My cycle route to work is along a road that was recently resurfaced with new asphalt and nice red brick, but within a short space of time a utility company had dug it up and left it looking rather ugly and full of potholes.

Even when they try to fill them, the repairs do not last long.

Members of the National Joint Utilities Group carry out reinstatements to the road surface to the required standards.

"If our members do fall short then Highways Authorities rightly hold them directly responsible and ensure the utility companies return to correct the problem," said Richard Wakelen, chief executive.

Utility companies say they reinstate the roads to the required standards.

Backlog of work

Spending on repairing roads has trebled in 10 years according to the government, which says councils should have an ongoing programme of repairs and not wait until the problems appear.

Pothole (Courtesy of CTC/
Councils find it difficult to keep up with the volume of repairs needed

Roads Minister Rosie Winterton believes local authorities need to know how many roads they have got.

"They need to see what sort of condition they are in and they need to have an ongoing programme of investment in them.

"They need to make sure they are regularly mending roads not leaving it until they are in such bad condition that it becomes incredibly expensive."

The Local Government Association says councils do not have the money to deal with the backlog of repairs.

It says it can not raise the money through council tax or add to the government allocation from its own funds.

David Sparks of the LGA said it estimated it would need another 200m a year to reach the target the government has set for filling in potholes by 2010.

"Our evidence shows that the backlog of work plus the escalation in costs means that we haven't got enough money to solve the problem."

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