Claims highways system is ‘broken’ as number of potholes doubles

More than 43,000 potholes have been reported in Gloucestershire so far this year and opposition councillors claim the highways system is broken.

Liberal Democrat councillors are so concerned about the situation that they are calling on Gloucestershire County Council to conduct a root and branch review of the way they deliver highways services.

They say the highways system is broken and failing on various levels with councillors being inundated with appeals from residents to fix potholes, mend signs and clear leaves from drains.

The opposition councillors are tabling a motion at next week’s council meeting asking for major changes to the culture of highways bosses at the council to regain the trust of local people.

They say the situation is getting progressively worse with each passing year and residents are frustrated by the unresponsiveness of the system.

The number of potholes reported in the county has risen from 24,668 in 2019/20 to 36,447 in the last financial year.

And now more than 43,000 were reported in the first half of the current year.

Cllr Roger Whyborn (Lib Dem, Benhall Up Hatherley), who will propose the motion, said: “Time and time again, the condition of our roads, broken street signs, overgrown hedges or dodgy repairs are the number one topic of conversation on the doorstep.

“And, despite investment, it is a situation that is getting progressively worse – with the number of potholes on our roads more than doubling in recent years, and resident satisfaction surveys down.

“Meanwhile, communities feel completely detached from the highways process and have no opportunity to engage in discussions about where their taxpayers’ money is spent.

“We need to change this, which is why we’re calling for this council to review the way it delivers highways service and assess how it can devolve decisions on spending priorities to the lowest possible level, to give power back to our communities.”

His motion calls for the council to consider how best to devolve decisions on spending priorities and operational decisions to a local level to empower communities.

He is also calling for a task and finish group to interrogate how the council can achieve the best value for the taxpayer and superior highway results for local residents by bringing in experts from better-performing councils and interest groups to provide advice.

However, highways and flood cabinet member Vernon Smith (Con, Tewkesbury East) said the ruling administration will not be supporting the motion.

They say it does not reflect the hard work undertaken by highways staff during a very difficult period.

“While our £150 million road resurfacing scheme continues to deliver, we have seen some issues in routine maintenance due to supply chain issues and other problems in part related to covid,” Cllr Smith said.

“That is why we are investing additional resources in the upcoming budget and have recently appointed a new director of highways to drive our new customer programme along with Cllr Dom Morris who has been appointed our new cabinet champion for highways customer engagement.

“We will not be supporting the motion in its current state as it does not reflect the hard work undertaken by our Highways staff against a very difficult covid backdrop and the investments we are making in both senior leadership and in next year’s highway’s budget.”

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