Central Beds Council struggling to tackle pothole repair backlog

File photo of a pothole. Picture: Danny Loo

File photo of a pothole. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

There’s not enough money in the pot to fix every road defect in Central Bedfordshire.

That’s the stark message from the unitary authority’s director of community services, Marcel Coiffait.

The most dangerous potholes have to be prioritised, he told a meeting of the council’s sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee today.

“I could spend seven years’ annual budget on the defects I know of,” he said.

“In comparison, in Northamptonshire there’s a 35-year deficit. We have got to ration the resources to things which have the most impact.

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“Everyone is an expert. People think we’re doing a bad job. But we’re trying to use council resources in the most efficient way possible.

“I would love to fix everything. I would like to have the funding to do it all.”

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The council has initiated a highways improvement plan, and councillors are monitoring its progress.

Chris Goodacre, contract manager with highways services provider Ringway, admitted they didn’t ask the council for enough support to tackle issues arising from last winter.

“We had one team for the north of the area, and one for the south,” he said. “That was under-resourced.”

A two-day workshop for the highways team to spell out where further improvements are necessary was held this week, said Mr Coiffait.

“To be honest and fair, I would have hoped we’re not in the position where we are right now,” he said.

“We have not improved [highways] performance as far as I would have liked to have done.

“It needs a concentrated focus. We have nearly hit targets, but it’s not quite good enough.”

He explained the focus of the workshops was how to “do things differently and how to drive improvement” with a “this is how it used to be … anything less is unacceptable” approach.

“The issues are compounded by the bad winter, but that is reflected in every authority in the country,” he added.

“We were a bit slow to react. The crews are out there now doing work as we speak.”

He explained that the executive member for community services, Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno, was telling him all the time if issues arise.

“We will see an improvement, but we’re not being complacent about it,” said Mr Coiffait.

“‘I will hold you to account’ were my last words at the workshops.”

Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor David Bowater said: “One of the biggest complaints I get is that a team arrives to fix six potholes, repairs three, and leaves the other three.

“When are we going to start using common sense?” he asked. “There are specific problems in Leighton Buzzard where potholes aren’t filled in on the exit side of speed humps.”

Mr Coiffait said patch repairs can take place where every issue is sorted out within a five-metre radius of a defect.

But he admitted there isn’t the resourcing for widespread patching across Central Bedfordshire.

Conservative councillor for Dunstable Watling Nigel Young said: “If you drive into a pothole you’re not looking where you are going. I try to avoid them.”

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