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

Press Releases 14 Aug 2019

New FOI data shows local authorities receive a request to fix a pothole every 46 seconds

  • 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

Notes to editor

Figures for 2017/18 and 2018/19 obtained by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to local authorities in England, asking:

  • How much money did the council spend on repairing roads?
  • How many requests and/or complaints did you receive asking for damaged road surfaces/potholes to be repaired?
  • How many claims – successful or otherwise – were made for vehicle damage as a result of potholes/damaged roads/pavements?
  • How many of these claims were successful, and what is the total amount paid out?
  • Which road in the area had the highest number of complaints made regarding any damage to the surface?

Headline figures from across the country for 2018/19:

 

Total spend on road repair

Total complaints/requests

Total claims

Successful claims

Total amount paid out

England

£949,866,134

699,535

31,620

7,706

£1,978,676

East Midlands

£118,877,381

60,017

3,957

1,375

£326,354

East of England

£132,954,561

62,522

4,060

736

£209,863

Greater London

£55,470,868

42,106

1,843

363

£139,460

North West

£94,656,656

72,018

5,165

1,742

£387,468

South Central

£83,826,389

87,907

3,998

808

£245,356

South East

£80,372,132

22,396

3,346

591

£238,134

South West

£140,193,216

80,675

3,905

661

£50,043

West Midlands

£61,719,003

76,299

2,554

801

£174,757

Yorkshire & The Humber

£151,863,018

92,010

1,703

406

£134,265

North East

£29,932,910

103,585

1,089

223

£72,975

Headline figures from across the country for 2017/18:

 

Total spend on road repair

Total complaints/requests

Total claims

Successful claims

Total amount paid out

England

£820,573,877

616,557

31,471

6,917

£2,191,152

East Midlands

£117,114,416

51,692

4,673

1,340

£352,797

East of England

£122,092,236

57,554

5,956

1,297

£434,817

Greater London

£36,107,851

28,599

1,673

275

£130,625

North West

£100,140,801

83,109

4,591

1,378

£316,646

South Central

£64,735,543

97,841

3,695

545

£163,105

South East

£45,919,832

67,171

2,895

369

£159,619

South West

£121,839,134

95,766

4,061

603

£173,388

West Midlands

£65,913,281

77,607

2,286

704

£263,018

Yorkshire & The Humber

£146,710,783

57,218

1,641

406

£197,137

North East

£29,001,834

91,811

1,367

351

£104,729

  1. Small business road usage statistics from FSB report Going the Extra Mile, 2016

About FSB

As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.

FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.

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