A Lib Dem Perspective - Just what is a Pothole?

17 Apr 2024

Just what is a pothole? According to ESCC Highways it isn’t a pothole unless it’s at least 30cm wide and long. The depth then determines prioritisation. So, the long narrow deep cracks that develop when sections of the concrete base shift as countless HGVs rumble across them aren’t potholes. Tell that to cyclists and bikers whose wheels get caught in them.

When I was first elected to County Council, we had our own Highways staff who knew their local patch and could react immediately if problems arose. We could contact local independent contractors who would respond quickly and cost-effectively without going via costly layers of centralised management for approval. Certainly, we would not see wheel-wrecking potholes left unfilled for weeks as we do now.

This Government’s consistent underfunding of local authorities has resulted in constant cutbacks and tough choices, but it is not cost effective to leave smaller potholes to grow.

Meanwhile, continuing underfunding of Highways results in misery for hundreds of drivers. An FOI request to County shows the pothole problem dramatically. Their records reveal that in 2021/22 there were 344 claims for damage, 78 resulting in compensation totalling £35,169. In the first ten months of 2023/24, claims had nearly quadrupled to 1236, with 1033 paid totalling £297,930, eight times higher.

Adding to driving misery, there is little coordination of road closures between Highways and the utilities- who are largely a law unto themselves, and ‘Road Closed’ are frequently misleading. So, at present in Battle we have chaos as London Road is closed for road strengthening work, Virgins Lane closed for sewer works, and then we frequently see extra traffic due to A21 closures. The much needed, and now promised, resurfacing of North Trade Road has been deferred to next January due to planned gas works on the diversion route. Highways have at least promised some much-needed patching on NTR pending full resurfacing. The adverse impact on High Street businesses is inestimable. Yet complain to a Councillor from the administration and you will simply be told how many potholes have been filled.

We all know that when money is tight, we need to make the most of every penny spent. It’s no wonder a party that considers £100,000 ‘not a huge salary’ is struggling to make the nation’s books balance!

Cllr Kathryn Field 

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