Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton pays £1.5m in three years in pothole claims

Southampton City Council has paid out £1.5m in the past three years in compensation over potholes, figures show.

Portsmouth City Council refused to disclose the amount it had paid out, while Hampshire County Council said it had paid out £256,310 over three years.

Meanwhile Isle of Wight Council paid out £126,609 during the same period.

The figures were released by the councils following a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.

They show Conservative-led Southampton City Council spends about £500,000 a year on claims.

The authority's annual budget for highways is about £7m to £8m per year over the past two years. It said its actual spend was in line with the budget.

In Portsmouth, the Liberal Democrat-controlled city council said it had budgeted for nearly £22m a year in private finance initiatives for highways maintenance in the past two years - about three times as much as Southampton for the same period.

It could not give figures for how much it had actually spent, but said its annual budget for 2011/12 was also nearly £22m.

On the Isle of Wight, the annual highways maintenance budget was between £2.3m and £2.8m per year over the past two years. The Conservative-run council overspent by £632,607 in 2009/10.

In Hampshire, the annual highways maintenance budget was between £60m to £66m per year for the past two years, of which there was an overspend of between £1.3m and £3.4m a year by the Conservative-led authority.

A Southampton City Council spokesperson said: "Southampton is a densely populated city and coupled with being the cruise capital of northern Europe, has hundreds of thousands of lorry, car and other vehicle movements over its roads on a daily basis.

"Consequently potholes form much faster than in more rural areas, and compounded by some severe winters, Southampton's roads have suffered and more potholes have formed.

"To address this the council appointed leading highways contractor Balfour Beatty last year to tackle the city's roads. The council is also investing an extra £800,000 year on year into our highways budget, despite financial pressures, to improve Southampton roads.

"We anticipate that over the coming years the amount paid out for compensation will go down considerably."

The council said it was also changing its quick-fix way of filling in potholes and was instead replacing "entire stretches of road where there is an obvious problem".

A Portsmouth City Council spokesperson said: "The situation for Portsmouth is different from most other councils.

"We have a 25-year PFI [private finance initiative] contract with a company called Colas, under which they have responsibility for maintaining the city's roads. We've handed over the duty to them for that period.

"Colas fix potholes according to the strict time limits laid down in our arrangement with them.

"They also deal with any compensation issues, because under the contract they are responsible for the condition of the roads."

Isle of Wight Council's member for environment and transport, Councillor Edward Giles, said: "Island roads were already in poor condition and have suffered as a result of two consecutive cold, wet winters."

Good roads 'essential'

He said a planned private finance initiative would "bring a major investment to refurbish the island's roads between 2013 and 2020".

Hampshire County Council's executive member for environment, Councillor Mel Kendal, said: "Within its budget this year the council has recognised highways maintenance among the core services that are a priority for residents, and funding for highways maintenance has been fully protected in the budget.

"We recognise the importance of year on year investment in structural repairs and improvements to the strength and condition of our roads to make them more resilient to the impact of extreme weather conditions."

"Good roads are essential for Hampshire's economy and infrastructure."

Last week, the government announced councils could bid for a slice of £100m if they felt they had been badly affected by potholes.

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