Fixing England’s pothole problem – the hole in council spending

Fixing England’s pothole problem – the hole in council spending

More than half of councils have less cash to spend on fixing potholes than they did five years ago and only 7% of councils filled every reported pothole within their target time.

In response to this, Cycling UK instigated a Pothole Watch campaign running from 1-7 March, highlighting the need for investment in local roads and calling on the public to report road defects.

Data obtained by Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, shows 58% of local authorities in Great Britain have less budget for road maintenance than they did in 2016/17, when adjusted for inflation. As overall highway spending increases, the maintenance of local roads is being left behind and the latest estimates suggest the cost of fixing the pothole problem has risen to £10.4bn.

The data was released to mark the national cycling charity’s Pothole Watch campaign, highlighting the lack of funding to deal with the ever-worsening state of Britain’s roads. Just one in 14 councils are now able to meet their target repair times for fixing potholes. Only six local authorities filled 100% of reported potholes within their self-imposed target times over the past five years: Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Môn), Lambeth, Na h-Eileanan Sar, Halton, Hounslow and North Tyneside. The worst performing council was Bristol, filling only 15% within their target time frame.

More spending needed for local roads

With 68% of journeys in the UK being less than five miles, Cycling UK says that, while local roads are the backbone of our transport network, investment is continuing to stagnate in favour of spending on major routes – with predictable results. As well as causing £1.25bn worth of damage to vehicles each year, potholes put the lives of vulnerable road users in danger: since 2016, 10 cyclist deaths and 178 serious injuries have been attributed to road defects in Great Britain.

“Our findings sadly confirm that government investment in pothole repairs is doing as much good as a sticking plaster on a broken leg,” said Keir Gallagher, Cycling UK’s campaigns manager. “With a majority of councils seeing their pothole budgets shrinking in real terms over the past five years, it’s time for the Government to commit to ‘levelling up’ the local roads we all use every day, whether we’re walking, cycling, or driving.

“Instead, by investing £27bn in the strategic roads network in England, when less than half of that could fix every pothole in the country, the Government is prioritising a minority of road users and abandoning the rest of us to dangerous pothole dodging every time we leave the house.”

How can cyclist’s help?

If you are out and about on your bike a lot, you no doubt already know where many of the worst patches of road are in your area. On average, there is one defect for every 110 metres of road in the UK. Cycling UK is calling on the public to report holes and other road defects they spot while out on essential journeys by using the interactive map on its Fill That Hole website: www.fillthathole.org.uk.

However, if you have been involved in an accident caused by a pothole it isn’t such a clear-cut decision, as we explained in Highway Defects: To Report or Not to Report. Delaying reporting the defect might give you a better chance of a successful claim but could result in another cyclist ending up in the same or an even worse situation in the interim. We don’t believe it’s a fair decision to put on the cyclist but it’s one that the current legislation creates.

Find out more

Full statistics from local authorities ..responding to Cycling UK’s FoI requests

Does your area have a pothole problem? How responsive is your council to reports of road defects? Share your opinions on our Facebook and Twitter channels.