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14 August 2019

REVEALED: England’s pothole problem laid bare as 700,000 complaints reported across the country

  • New FOI data shows almost 700,000 potholes and road defects were reported in the last year across England
  • Figures show local authorities receive a request to fix a pothole every 46 seconds
  • Almost £1billion has been spent fixing roads across the country

Local authorities receive a pothole complaint every 46 seconds, according to new Freedom of Information figures gathered by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The statistics reveal that combined, the depth of the country’s 700,000 reported potholes over the last year, is around 28km – almost 15 times deeper than the deepest point of the Grand Canyon.

In total, almost £1billion has been spent fixing damaged roads and holes in 2018/19, a figure similar to the previous year.

More than £1.9million has been paid out in compensation to claimants that had their vehicles damaged last year. The figures revealed that just 24% of claims for vehicle damage were successful across England, with the average pay out per claim equating to £257.

Authorities in the North East received the largest number of complaints over potholes, registering more than 100,000, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber (92,000), the South Central region (almost 88,000) and the South West (just over 80,000).

Potholes are a major blight on the nation’s roads. Small businesses rely heavily on the road network, with nine in 10 (89%) small firms considering it to be important, for their staff, customers and trade deliveries.

FSB is calling for a number of measures to help improve road infrastructure across the country, including:

  • More funding for local authorities from central government to support planned regular maintenance programmes, and to help alleviate the pothole problem. Unless additional funding is provided, the road maintenance problem is likely to increase over time, meaning more will need to be spent on repairs and damage claims.
  • Better coordination is needed between utilities companies and local authorities when roads need to be dug up. The amount of time that utility companies are responsible for the road they have dug up should be extended from the current two to five years. 
  • FSB also wants to see Government ensuring there is a simple system for both reporting potholes locally, as well as for submitting claims for damage to vehicles.
  • Local authorities should use innovative technology to monitor road condition to enable them to identify deteriorating roads, learning from trailblazer councils.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Potholes are a major concern for the nation’s small businesses. Our members rely heavily on the local road network, with their staff, customers and trade deliveries, dependent on fast and efficient road networks. 

“Poorly looked-after roads peppered with holes and cracks not only hamper their ability to do business, but lead to damaged vehicles, which are often vital assets to small firms working without large capital reserves.

“These figures show just how widespread the issue is and it’s clear that the Government and local authorities need to sit up and take notice. Measures like more funding for local authorities and improving the coordination between authorities and utility companies, will go some way in helping ease the burden of this ever-growing issue.”

Potholes in numbers (2018/19):

Total spend on road repair - £949,866,134 
Total number of complaints about damaged road surfaces/potholes –699,535
Total number of claims, successful or otherwise, for vehicle damage as a result of potholes or damaged roads – 31,620
Number of successful claims – 7,706
Total amount paid out - £1,978,676