The government recently provided more information about the £50 million "pothole fund," first announced in the Autumn Statement. How far will this help solve the problem of poorly maintained roads, and the growing cost to councils?
The cost of potholes
Our recent post considered how much winter flood damage has already cost councils, and damaged roads are just one more consequence of this. Potholes cost drivers an estimated £684 million each year, with Cornwall Council reporting that the recent poor weather has led to them receiving as many as 1,000 new reports of potholes every week. In 2014-15, 200 local authorities received almost 30,000 compensation claims for damaged vehicles. Although they denied liability for the majority of these, they accepted around a quarter, and paid an average of £300 per claim.
To combat this growing problem, the government proposes to split a £50 million fund between 118 local authorities. Money will be allocated according to the size of each council's road networks, with the South West receiving the largest investment. This forms part of the Pothole Action Fund, which will commit £250 million towards eradicating potholes over the next five years.
Although news of the fund was broadly welcomed, the President of the AA, Edmund King OBE, called it a "drop in the ocean". The Local Government Association (LGA) agreed and warned that it would cost £11.8 billion to get the UK's roads to an acceptable standard, which is 230 times the amount promised.
The problem is compounded by the fact that recent budget cuts have led to councils facing a 16% reduction in their road maintenance allowances, which has led to what the LGA calls a "frustrating cycle" in which councils find themselves only able to patch up roads rather than carry out proper repairs.
Whilst the new fund may go some way towards easing the cost of potholes, it seems unlikely to eradicate it completely, and councils will be expected to meet the shortfall from their own resources. In light of this, councils should consider building up their cash reserves by consulting ethical Enforcement Agents like Dukes Bailiffs. Speak to our Contact Centre Manager today to find out how we can help with the collection of outstanding arrears.