Midland councils 'refusing' to fix potholes deemed 'too small' - claim

Many potholes are left unrepaired despite being reported because some councils only fix them if they are a minimum size, according to new analysis. Research by the RAC and Channel 4's Dispatches programme found that over a third (35 per cent) of authorities in Britain specify the size of a pothole must be before they will take action.

The most common depth stated is 4cm (1.6in)(54 councils), but for six councils Warwickshire, Torbay, Thurrock, Nottingham, Torfaen and South Lanarkshire potholes need to be at least 5cm (2in) deep to be considered for repair. Thirteen local authorities, including Buckinghamshire, Stockport and Devon, state only those at least 30cm (11.8in) wide and 4cm (1.6in) deep will get fixed.

Around 37 per cent of councils say they adopt a "risk-based approach" when deciding which potholes to fix and how quickly to do so, while 29 per cent do not state any criteria online. RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: "For a long time, we've advised the public to report each and every pothole they come across to their local authority, not least as a council can refuse to compensate for damage caused from hitting one if they can prove they didn't know it existed."

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"But unfortunately, as this analysis shows, just reporting a road defect doesn't guarantee it will get fixed. In some cases, councils state a pothole needs to be sufficiently deep or wide to be considered for repair."

"This can be enormously frustrating for anyone who comes across one, reports it but then witnesses it get even bigger and more dangerous as it didn't quite reach a council's threshold for repair." Common vehicle problems caused by potholes include damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

In October 2023, the Government announced it would provide £8.3 billion of extra funding over 11 years to fix potholes in England. This was part of the Network North strategy to use money saved by scrapping the planned extension of HS2 north of Birmingham.

Potholes on Lane Green Road
A huge pothole in Stoke-on-Trent

The cost of bringing pothole-plagued local roads in England and Wales up to scratch has been estimated at £16.3 billion. Darren Rodwell, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: "Councils are on the side of all road users and want to focus on properly resurfacing our roads, including tackling the £16.3 billion backlog of road repairs."

"Many factors affect repair rates, such as the road profile, traffic levels and available budgets. Councils would much prefer to focus on preventative repairs but only greater, year-on-year long-term funding certainty for maintaining all parts of our highways will help them achieve this."

"The Government should award council highways departments five-yearly funding allocations, on a par with National Highways, to give them more certainty to develop resurfacing programmes and other improvements to help prevent potholes in the first place." The Department for Transport has been approached for a comment.