Suffolk: Potholes behind up to 7,000 complaints reported by drivers in six months as ‘shocking’ road network faces fresh scrutiny
PUBLISHED: 10:22 30 April 2014
Up to 7,000 potholes have been repaired in Suffolk in the last six months, we can reveal.
But last night critics said this was “just the tip of the iceberg” with the number of motorists reporting serious defects and potholes on the county’s roads totalling almost 10,000 between last October and March.
Senior Labour figures seized on the disclosure to criticise Suffolk County Council’s handling of the “shocking” road network, calling for improvements in repair standards and response rates.
However, the Conservative-run authority said they worked “tirelessly” during the winter to deal with “extreme weather events”, insisting dangerous road defects are prioritised and tackled immediately.
The debate was triggered by a county council paper to be discussed at a scrutiny meeting next Wednesday. It said 9,948 complaints of potholes and other highway defects were reported to the authority in the last six months.
Broken down, there were 1,916 one-hour emergency call-outs and 774 ‘priority two’ (28 days) incidents. Both categories rarely involve potholes.
However, there were 2,908 urgent 24-hour call-outs and 4,350 ‘priority one’ (14 days) incidents. Potholes are behind the majority of these reports, which total 7,258.
Figures on whether the repairs were carried out on time were not available.
Suffolk County Council also spent £50.2m on repairs between 2011/2012 and 2012/2013.
Sandra Gage, Labour’s shadow roads and transport spokesman at the county council, said there has been a drop in repair standards, a poor response rate and poor communication with residents.
“Standards in routine maintenance have dropped and residents in Ipswich have inundated councillors with lists of roads that remain in a poor state,” she said.
“We are frequently unable to get a date when any works can or will be undertaken, let alone a satisfactory repair.”
She added new procedures are only now being considered following criticism from the opposition.
David Ellesmere, leader of the Labour-run Ipswich Borough Council, said the county is experiencing a “picture of chaos on the roads”.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he warned.
“Anybody looking at the state of the roads in Ipswich will see the shocking state of repairs. The really worrying thing is historically we have had quite mild winters.
“We are concerned funding is not being allocated properly.”
Nationally, local authorities have warned Britain is on the brink of a major pothole crisis following the government’s austerity drive and severe winters. Council’s highways maintenance budgets were cut by 19% in the four years to 2015.
Safety campaigners warned of the dangers of cutting roads budgets, saying potholes cause death and serious injury, particularly to cyclists.
Paul Watters, head of road policy at the AA, called for roads to be resurfaced rather than filled.
He stressed central government funding must be poured in to capital programmes to improve roads rather than simply reacting to problems in a “vicious circle”.
“Potholes are an indictment of a bigger problem lurking beneath the surface. We are constantly playing catch-up,” he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron wants to attract private investment in roads. Nationwide, it is 68 years before the average road is wholly resurfaced.
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said that, despite a mild winter, the road infrastructure has suffered from high levels of rainfall, causing flooding and exacerbating potholes.
Saturated ground have prompted temporary repairs, with permanent repairs expected after they dry out.
He added serious and dangerous potholes are now being addressed in order of severity.
He said: “Our contractors, KierMG, have worked tirelessly throughout a very busy season to deal with some of the extreme weather events experienced across Suffolk.
“When it comes to road defects such as potholes, a consistent approach is taken across the county. No area is more important than another. If the defect is posing a significant safety issue to the public this will be dealt with as a matter of priority.
“We encourage all who come across a defect in the road to report it immediately via our online reporting system or over the phone.
“It’s key to note that potholes and road defects are registered with highways in two ways, through regular inspections of roads by the highways service and by the reporting system. Dangerous road defects are prioritised and are being dealt with immediately.”