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Who will foot the bill for pothole repairs, as local authorities feel the strain

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: January 06, 2011

  • One of many pot holes appearing on the Westcountry's roads, this one on Dartmoor near Haytor Photograph: Richard Austin Western Morning News

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The Department for Transport could be asked to bail out cash-strapped local authorities as the bill to repair the region's potholes threatens to run into millions of pounds.

Council staff are battling to provide emergency maintenance to road surfaces after members of the public reported hundreds of potholes opening up last month.

Snow and ice this winter have already taken their toll on the region's roads. The recent big thaw revealed further damage.

Cash-strapped authorities say they have budgeted for essential repairs following last January's snow and ice, but admit they may ask the Government for a repeat of last year's one-off 'catch-up fund' should the latest cost of repairs exceed highways budgets. Last year they spent tens of millions repairing damaged road surfaces.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which represents companies producing raw materials needed to make road surfaces, said councils were "doing all they can" to repair roads, and has called on the Department for Transport to help out.

AIA spokeswoman Helen Melhuish, said: "Rural areas are particularly bad, and the poor weather has exposed hundreds of potholes.

"Any motorist trying to get down a rural road will find it extra difficult if he or she is confronted by a series of potholes, which are extremely unsafe.

"I know we are in a difficult economic situation, but what is really needed is investment from the Government so that local authorities can get the roads up to standard, rather than having to fork out for temporary solutions such as filling potholes."

In March, the Government announced a £9 million fund to repair the worst potholes, which cost an estimated £134 each to mend.

Authorities say they have dealt with the majority of potholes reported last year, although the recent big freeze has left them with another backlog.

Cornwall Council's highways staff have dealt with 110 of the 150 potholes reported by the public last month, although they are expecting more if another arctic blast moves in.

Asked how the council will continue to fund maintenance work despite having the authority's budget cut by £170million over four years, council spokesman Miles Davis said: "The money has come from the highways budget.

"We knew, following last January's weather, that there were going to be potholes and we were prepared for it.

"If there is another batch of poor weather, creating further potholes, we could look to make a case for help to the Department for Transport, but it is too early yet."

Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said many smaller traders had already complained that potholes are hampering their operations.

Mr Jones said: "There are some very fine businesses at the end of these rural roads so if couriers and customers are struggling to get down them then the results could be grave for businesses."

A Plymouth City Council spokesman said it filled in more than 10,000 potholes last year, and has encouraged members of the public to report further incidents.

He added: "We have already started a full safety inspection of our main roads following the recent bad weather, to ensure that they are in good condition and remain open."

In Devon, county council staff have already received 88 reports of new potholes from the public since January 1, compared with 95 at the same point in 2010. Last year, the council spent £11 million on reactive repairs and resurfacing highways damaged last winter.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, the council's cabinet member for highways, said: "It's too early to predict to what extent the recent severe weather may have damaged our roads, but it's likely to have again caused considerable damage for a third winter in a row."

Similarly, council staff in Torbay say they are dealing with "increased demand" for pothole repairs.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said last year's bail-out came after "exceptional damage" to the road network.

She said to was too early to say whether this winter's weather would trigger another pothole fund.

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  • yveyk  |  January 13 2013, 3:01PM

    If someone audited Cormac, who seem to run Cornwall's infrastructure, maybe they could divert money way from alll these 'change of signage' and 'traffic calming' nonsense into a better plan for repairing and keeping the roads up to scratch. Today we went to Trago along the A38 at Liskeard, the road was coned off - why? No work going on and it would seem it is something to do with barriers? Its time for Cornwall to sort out the state of the roads before cyclists and motorcyclists are killed by the ever growning number of potholes.

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    James, Cornwall  |  January 07 2011, 5:26PM

    Gaz Truro, all these scum ( baggs ) who ( brake ) the law, may stay home learning to spell, you might do well to follow their example.

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    S. Andrews, Cornwall  |  January 07 2011, 2:50PM

    And like someone says below, it is time the arms budget was cut even more ! A complete and utter waste of money.

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    S. Andrews, Cornwall  |  January 07 2011, 2:48PM

    Who will foot the bill for pothole repairs, as local authorities feel the strain asks the headline without placing a question mark ! Why of course, it will be the taxpayer. The same taxpayer who foots the expenses and wage bill of that lot in London who coudln't organise anything ! I see this week that they intend to change the expenses for MPs arrangements again ! They are trash moreso than the petty criminals we have here in the community.

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    Gazz, Truro  |  January 07 2011, 1:41PM

    Get the scum baggs who brake the law and dont work for a living into chain gangs and make them fix our roads!!!

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    Anon, Cornwall  |  January 07 2011, 11:04AM

    It is time someone actually asked the banks for some if not all of the money back loaned to them by the taxpayer. What on earth is going on ?

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    kim, Cornwall  |  January 07 2011, 8:41AM

    Umm now here is a thought?? years ago (like 40 or more) roads were swept, pavements kept clean, and road repairs were made quickly, even new motorways were built! M6 and M5 for example, we had less people in the country and a lot less drivers. So explain where all the money has gone? we have more motorists and a bigger population. Just a thought eh?

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    Urban Leprechaun, Devon  |  January 07 2011, 12:07AM

    Potholes? This is a Conservative government, and the Conservatives always say it is not for the state to give people a smooth ride through life.

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    Terence, Probus  |  January 06 2011, 11:01PM

    Joe, you beat me to it. It makes you wonder where all those millions that the government screws out of us motorists actually do go to. I haven't seen much of it spent on what it's supposed to be recently, apart from a few pointless jobs such as renewing or realigning kerbstones. No doubt its one of those mysteries that only those in power have knowledge of, such as expenses and grossly blown up and immoral salories.

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    John, Camborne  |  January 06 2011, 9:06PM

    Or there again stop frittering billions of taxpayers money on wars overseas and spend it on the folks back home.