England

Pothole payouts rise by 300% Staffordshire Council says

Pothole
Image caption Potholes have become a problem across the West Midlands

Compensation payouts for pothole-related damage in Staffordshire have risen by about 300% in two years, BBC research has shown.

The county council, answering a BBC Freedom of Information request, said it had invested an extra £30m since 2009 to improve its road network.

It said it paid £9,837 in compensation in 2009-10 and £39,615 in 2010-11.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said it paid out £333,503 in compensation in 2010-11.

It said it would also be prioritising repairs as it does not have enough funding to deal with a "backlog of maintenance required on the city's network".

All councils in England have been responding to a FOI request by the BBC about their highways budgets.

'Catches up with you'

On 23 February, the government announced it was giving local authorities in England a share of an extra £100m to repair potholes caused by last year's freezing conditions.

But councils have raised concerns that the overall road maintenance budget is being cut by more than £160m over the next four years.

Mike Maryon, cabinet member for highways and transport at the Conservative-run Staffordshire County Council, said the compensation rise is a reflection of the state of the county's roads.

"You can't beat one of the coldest winters for more than 100 years but if you don't invest then what goes around comes around and it catches up with you," he said.

The council's budget in 2009-10 was £48m and £56.6m in 2010-11. Expenditure for the next financial year is not yet confirmed, the council said.

A spokesman from the Asphalt Industry Alliance said, overall, road maintenance has been under-funded for many years making the future "looking bleak".

"We know the local road network is in a fragile state and with a couple of severe winters - roads should not pothole after snow," he said.

"It's because they have been allowed to deteriorate due to under-funding for at least a decade, so it's successive governments."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said it highways budget for 2009-10 was £617,220 while last year's budget topped £1m, which included a £214,100 government grant for the severe winter in 2009-10.

It has a provisional budget of almost £600,000 in the next financial year.

But the council said it spent £879,489 in 2009-10 but would not reveal how much it spent last year.

The council is a four-way coalition of Labour, the Conservative and Independent Alliance, the Liberal Democrats and City Independents.

Its compensation claims for potholes and related highways maintenance issues in 2008-9 were almost £230,000, which dropped to just over £60,000 the following year.

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