Compensation claims made to Wokingham Council about potholes have nearly trebled

A Freedom of Information request to Wokingham Borough Council has revealed that the number of compensation claims paid out from the council have risen.

Figures show claims paid-out from the council have gone up from 37 in 2012 all the way to 101 in 2014, with a total of £4,884.12 being spent on these claims.

Shute End, the road that the council buildings are on, was involved in four compensation claims in 2013, making it one of the most complained about roads that year.

The amount spent on resurfacing the roads has increased as well, more than doubling since 2010/2011 (£1.25m) to 2014/2015 (£3m).

However, the budget set aside for potholes in 2014/2015 was only £188,850 of the £3,000,000 entire resurfacing budget.

The most dangerous road with the most complaints in 2014 was Church Road in Earley, with nine separate complaints.

When asked to comment on the state of the roads in the area, the council said they did not have the resources to comment on this issue with this publication.

According to data from the RAC, half of all the motorists they surveyed said that the condition of their roads has deteriorated in 2015, with 99 per cent saying this is because of potholes.

Other causes of deterioration outlined are litter (24 per cent) and poor maintenance of verges (21 per cent), with 10 per cent of drivers surveyed saying that the state of the roads was their number one concern, while a further 20 per cent said it was a top four issue.

A RAC spokesperson said: “Over the past few years, the RAC and other industry bodies have repeatedly warned that not enough money is being spent on the maintenance and improvement of local roads.

“Driver’s spending priorities reflect these concerns, as 30 per cent say local road maintenance is their top priority for government transport investment. And, indeed, 45 per cent of motorists say they would pay higher motoring taxes, if the revenue was ring-fenced for road maintenance.”

The Asphalt Industry Alliance states that “the guideline depth for definition of a pothole is 40mm, and more than 60 per cent of the authorities responding to the [AiA’s] survey use this to categorise potholes on their network.”

The chairman of the AiA Alan Mackenzie said: “It is important that local authorities get their fair share, which could go some way to addressing years of underfunding in maintaining the local road network.

“Local authority roads carry two-thirds of traffic and account for 98 per cent of our entire road network yet only obtain a fraction of the funding received by the strategic road network.

“Re-addressing the funding, imbalance will help local authorities in managing a backlog of repairs and in the implementation of proactive ‘invest-to-save’ maintenance strategies to improve our local roads.”

Highways England, who look after the main A roads in the area, have said that the government has promised (as of 2015) that the total spending of maintaining the main network of roads nationally will be 41 per cent higher, at over a billion pounds. This will be in addition to the 38 per cent increase in annual funding for local authority highway maintenance, helping to tackle potholes and other road repairs.

David Bizley, chief engineer at the RAC, said: “I am concerned that this has become a debate about how many potholes we plan to fill, and even the Government is measuring local roads funding…

“In terms of the number of potholes that can be filled for the money, what we actually need to do is to change the emphasis to resurface roads to prevent the potholes appearing in the first place.”

Figures also show that due to potholes, the RAC dealt with an 82 per cent increase in the number of breakdowns involving potholes at the beginning of 2015. – in January and February, they dealt with nearly 7,500 breakdowns with motorists who experienced trouble with damaged suspension springs.

“The problems caused by bad quality road surfaces are not confined to suspension springs either – shock absorbers can be affected, and tyres and wheels potentially damaged.

“The sharp increase in suspension spring faults that we have seen across the country really does cast a cloud on the quality of our roads,” Mr Bizley added.

Compared to the first two months of 2014, where there were just over 4,000 incidents, the quality of the roads has got worse in the past few years.

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