Number of potholes in Suffolk increase despite council promises to clear road repairs backlog

The number of outstanding road projects increased last year.

The number of outstanding road projects increased last year. - Credit: Archant

The number of outstanding minor repairs on Suffolk’s roads increased by almost 100 between July and November last year despite county council promises that contractors would get on top of the work.

Contractors Kier MG saw the number of outstanding roadworks increase from 758 in July to 853 in November – at the most benign time of the year weather-wise.

More than half of those identified in November are still waiting to be dealt with. But only 154 have repairs scheduled, 397 are still waiting for a date to be fixed. Meanwhile more reports of problems will have been coming in.

The figures are revealed in a letter sent by cabinet member for transport Graham Newman to all councillors, which includes a spreadsheet of all the individual repairs that are overdue.

The figures came as no surprise to opposition transport spokeswoman Sandra Gage who said the list of roads was incomplete – some road details were sent to the wrong councillors.

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She said: “This is further evidence that the contract with Kier simply is not working. There is much larger backlog of work than we have seen in the past, it is getting worse – and the figures don’t even seem to be accurate.

“My colleagues in Ipswich have been sent details of roads that are not in their divisions and I know there are many roads with problems that have been reported which are not included here.”

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In his letter Mr Newman says: “I know that many of you are frustrated by a lack of progress on highway schemes you’ve asked to be carried out and less than adequate communication where works have not progressed against a pre-agreed timetable.

“I can assure you that changes are being made to the process of ordering and delivering minor works and local area highway schemes to ensure they are now being planned and delivered more effectively.

“Since the start of the contract in October 2013 over 30,000 orders have been passed to Kier, the vast majority of which have been delivered.”

Green group leader Mark Ereira felt the letter showed up an uncomfortable truth: “The contract is not working properly.

“We looked at how things were going at scrutiny committee at the council eight months ago and there were problems being flagged up.

“This shows that those issues are still there. They have not got on top of the problems, and how will things be if we get a bad spell of weather in the next few weeks?

“I do have sympathy for Graham’s position – he is trying to do all he can to get things going, but this is a privatisation that is not working well.”

Mr Newman said: “To be fair this is not all the contractors’ fault – we have received extra money from the government and that means there is more work being undertaken.

“Also the value of the work is about £1.5 million out of a £48 million contract. Some of the work is very small jobs.

“Having said this we are concerned and we have spoken to the regional director of Kier MG and we are all in no doubt that things need to improve.”

He also said that Kier had completed more than 30,000 individual projects – and 80% of outstanding jobs in July had been completed by November.

Jerry Pert, Kier General Manager, Suffolk Highways, said: “We are working closely with Suffolk County Council to reduce the jobs in the backlog of work.

“We have bought in additional resources to deliver work on the ground and I am pleased with the progress made to date. We have also worked with colleagues at Suffolk County Council to jointly develop new processes, to ensure new works entering our system can be managed efficiently and delivered on time.”

How bad are the potholes near your house? Log your potholes here.

More compensation claims over potholes

One of the modern motorists’ greatest annoyances is potholes – and last year Britain’s councils received more than 48,000 compensation claims for vehicles damaged by potholes.

That is the equivalent of one every 11 minutes every day of the 2013/14 financial year.

On average each claim cost £147 in administration fees despite less than a quarter of claims actually being successful.

The figures were compiled by the RAC Foundation which also found the value of successful claims was around £3.2million, down by £1m on the previous financial year.

The value of payouts in Suffolk jumped from just over £8,500 in 2012/13 to around £14,500 last year, the 302 claims received by the local highways authority putting it 36th on the list of 200 areas which responded to the foundation’s Freedom of Information requests.

However just 51 of those claims were successful, but this is still a rise on the 40 (out of 279) in the previous 12 months.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The fundamental problem lies not at the doors of our town halls but with central government.

“Despite occasional one-off grants related to periods of harsh weather they are simply not giving councils enough money to keep their road networks up to scratch.

“In England local authorities themselves estimate the maintenance backlog to be about £12 billion yet over the past five years spending on all roads in real terms has dropped 22% across England and Wales.

“Worn out road surfaces do not simply cause damage to vehicles they are also potentially lethal, particularly for two-wheeled road users.”

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