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A failure to respond to worsening road conditions still costs local authorities in the long run

View profile for Robert Dempsey
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The latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey (ALARM), compiled by the asphalt industry has been published today (20 March 2018).

The analysis of last year’s figures by Rob Dempsey of Roythornes Personal Injury department could be summarised as “prevention is better than cure” with the statistics showing it was twenty times more expensive to carry out reactive maintenance work than planned, preventative maintenance. This is still the case.

This year’s figures, however, perhaps indicate a more worrying trend.  Despite the road conditions worsening, councils appear less inclined to intervene in repairing potholes even once they are reported.

Whereas in 2017 it was estimated one in six local roads would need repair within the next five years, the figure is now one in five.

This would suggest an increased need to repair potholes but repairs are, in fact, decreasing. 

In 2016-2017 around 1.7 million potholes were filled in the UK, a figure which dropped to just over 1.5 million in 2017-2018.  This represents an average fall of over 1,000 potholes filled per local authority.  It's clearly not because roads are improving but rather because local authorities are pushing the argument as to when they feel repairs should be carried out.

This can have obvious ramifications for our clients and victims of personal injury.

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 injury claims is for a local authority to say they repair the potholes once they are reported to them or to argue the pothole does not represent a danger in the first instance.

Another member of the Roythornes' Personal Injury team, Lynda Thompson, saw this latter argument in a claim against Essex County Council which recently settled at trial.

Our client was thrown from his moped when the front wheel hit two large potholes.

The Council accepted the potholes were reported to them just 19 days before the incident but argued the pothole was not serious enough to warrant repair.  The court did not accept the argument and our claimant was compensated for his injuries and losses.

Increased arguments by local authorities that potholes are not “dangerous”, and their subsequent failure to repair, is counter-productive. 

In this case alone, the cost of filling in two potholes would have been around £150 yet, instead, the Council was required to compensate the claimant significantly more.

It seems the message from last year has yet to hit home with local authorities.

If you have sustained such an injury within the last three years you may be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with one of our Personal Injury specialists by calling 01775 842500 or email