Pothole City: The state of roads in England and Wales – North/South Divide
The Asphalt Industry Alliance has produced its Annual Local Authority Maintenance survey (ALARM). This provides a detailed picture of the condition of our highways.
Whilst it is reported by the Department for Transport that local highway maintenance funding for English authorities is now the highest its been in over a decade, one can arguably question whether it is too little, too late?
Highways teams in England and Wales report that the gap between the funds they received in 2017/18 and the amount they actually needed to keep the carriageway in reasonable order is approaching £556 million which is a shortfall of £3.3 million for every authority.
As a Personal Injury Solicitor based in Bury, we are often approached by those who have suffered unfortunate injuries as a result of potholes in the road. Potholes are symptomatic of poorly maintained roads and potential underlying structural issues.
Under the 1980 Highways Act, local authorities have a responsibility to maintain the highway so that it is free of danger to road users.
A standard defence to those claims is for the local authority to say they repair the potholes once they are reported to them.
Personal Injury lawyers have long argued that such a reactive system is insufficient. The report shows it costs on average £52 to repair a pothole as part of planned maintenance yet costs £75 to repair a pothole as part of a reactive response to complaints. These figures do not take into account the amount of compensation payments made by local authorities as a result of their failure to maintain the highway.
The report states that £28.3million is spent settling claims with £7.3million paid in road user compensation claims. I suggest it would be unfair to argue injured claimants are putting an unnecessary burden upon local authorities by bringing claims. If there had been adequate investment in the first place many injuries may have been prevented and it would have been cheaper to repair the potholes before any injury was caused.
The report also highlights a north/south divide in terms of the funding local authorities receive. Local authorities in the north have responsibility for 45% of the local road network in England and Wales, but receive, on average, two-thirds of the overall highways maintenance budget enjoyed by those in the south. The annual shortfall reported for northern authorities is £4.1million more than those in the south.
At Aston Knight Solicitors, local solicitors in Bury, we have experience of many individuals who have been unfortunate to suffer an injury on the highway. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident or injury and require legal advice please contact a member of our specialist team on 0800 999 6661 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Emma Pearce, Solicitor