Government TaskForce Looking Into Potholes
A new taskforce is to tackle the shoddy roadworks apparently wasting almost £250m a year and causing misery for drivers.
Firstly, many apologies for the dreadful pun as a headline, but I hope that you were intrigued enough to consider reading this blog (and maybe you were as you are reading this; so thank you). But this isn’t our first blog about potholes in the UK, and it is likely not to be the last, especially as it is estimated that “hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money (actually £435 million) has been wasted over the last two years as a result of poor repairs to roads dug up by contractors”, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
So what has George, David, William and the boys (Yes! That includes you too Nick. I wouldn’t leave you out!) done to warrant this piece of your valuable time?
Well, the LGA have set up a new taskforce – made up of councils, utility companies and business representatives - to try to reduce the cost and the disruption caused by roadworks across Britain. And that will obviously include the potholes
Cllr Peter Box, chairman of the LGA's Economy and Transport Board, was pretty scathing about the current situation when it comes to roadworks: "Most roadworks are essential and in many cases carried out efficiently and to a good standard. However, all too often the rush to get on to the next job leaves in its wake patches of shoddy resurfacing. Not only is the taxpayer left to foot the bill to do the resurfacing properly, it means needless frustration for motorists and thousands of pounds in lost trade for small businesses.
"For many years people have been complaining about these problems, but very little has changed. Hopefully now that the councils, utility companies and businesses have agreed to work together something will be done so the disruption and frustration of motorists and traders is kept to a minimum."
HMMM! I am not holding my breath. Words are easy, but actions aren’t.
According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance's Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) 2013 report on its surveys carried out in highways departments, 20% of contractors' work was not up to standard last year (an increase of 3%), meaning the jobs had to be redone properly at the expense of local councils, causing more disruption and delays, and causing financial headaches for the councils – especially as the contractors usually had already been paid for their sub-standard work.
According to the new taskforce, they will be aiming to use new technology so that projects are co-ordinated a lot better than they are at the moment and that the performance of contractors is better monitored.
So, can we trust the taskforce? We don’t have much choice, in all honesty, but the campaign website, Potholes.co.uk, set up automotive warranty specialist Warranty Direct in 2007, seem to think that it is an idea that could work, especially if the UK’s crumbling road network is brought up to scratch by greater investment right across the board.
With the average cost of repairs to cars damaged by bad roads hitting an average of £257, Warranty Direct’s Duncan McClure Fisher said: “We are very happy to hear that the government is acknowledging the mess that councils and utility companies leave behind when they repair roads to an inadequate standard. Over the years, we have found that many Potholes.co.uk users report damage to the vehicles caused by stretches of road which have been dug up and repaired poorly.
“We’ve always campaigned for the ‘patch and mend’ mentality to be scrapped and for better funding to be made available to local authorities so they can do the job properly in the first place. However, we won’t be holding our breath that the taskforce will magically improve Britain’s roads – our infrastructure needs greater investment across the board and this is just one small step in achieving that.”
And that is certainly the case across Greater Manchester as local councils are finding that they are facing a bill of around £52m to repair potholes this year – and having to borrow at least £15m to do so (to whatever standard contractors do it to!)
Salford will need to borrow £7.6m from external lenders (hopefully not Wonga.com), followed by Oldham with £5.9m, £2m for my home town of Stockport and £460,000 for Wigan.
In fact there is an internal councillor war going on in Stockport as to whether or not they should do all the small holes first before the money runs out, or the big ones!
Until a councillor falls down one, maybe this will run and (very bumpily) run?