Disbelief at Surrey County Council’s top 10 pothole rating

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Surrey County Council is considering joining counterparts in Kent, Sussex and Medway to share costs of maintaining the roads

Over the past 12 months, around 85,000 defects have been repaired

Claims that Surrey County Council (SCC) is among the best local authorities in the country for fixing potholes have been met with disbelief.

A report looking into how the Kier Group, charged with maintaining Surrey highways, has performed in fixing “safety defects” stated that Surrey was among the top 10 councils in the country for its record on road repairs.

Members of the council’s environment and transport select committee have been advised to extend the Kier Group contract to maintain the highways by one year.

The contract, awarded in 2011, was set to finish in 2017 but Kier group would have a 12-month extension and would develop another five-year business plan, for the period 2016-2021.

Part of the Kier group’s responsibilities is to fix potholes in the roads. A Department for Transport survey recently ranked Surrey Highways as the joint 9th best out of 148 councils in the country at dealing with road defects.

Over the past 12 months, around 85,000 defects have been repaired. The figure includes defects reported by members of the public and by the council’s highway inspectors.

‘Horrific’

However, these figures have been disputed by members of the public and county councillors.

Richard Brooking, from Mill Lane in Witley, recently complained about the about of potholes on his road. The road was then resurfaced after an inquiry by the Surrey Advertiser to SCC.

Mr Brooking said: “If SCC has the 9th best record at filling in potholes then I would hate to see the worst in the country. It must be horrific.

“On Mill Lane we had lots of potholes and we were struggling to get the council to deal with them. In fact, at one point we were told that it would not get fixed for possibly three years.

“Then when the Surrey Advertiser put in a request for information, the next thing the street was completely resurfaced.

“I think one of the main issues is potholes are not dealt with in a permanent way. Often once the potholes are filled in they reappear as soon as it gets frosty again.

“I also have no idea how they prioritise potholes. Often I will see marks put beside potholes by some mystical person who never returns to fix them.”

‘Vast improvement required’

Councillor Stephen Cooksey, who sits on the member reference group reporting on the Kier contract, also expressed concern over the findings.

He said: “So far as the pothole situation is concerned, the ranking came as much as a surprise to councillors as it will to the public.

“Statistics often have a habit of fudging reality and many of the performance indicators that the contractors appear to have achieved successfully bear no relationship to the reality that residents see on the ground.

“Issues such as reporting potholes that are never filled, filling one pothole but leaving half a dozen others in the same area unfilled and potholes that are filled only to find the filling coming out a few days later undermine any confidence that the public might have in an improved service.

“Whatever the statistics say, a vast improvement in performance is required before any extended contract is awarded.”

Mr Cooksey, said he was keen not to give the Kier group the impression that the extension of the contract was expected, but that it was sensible to find a way forward to deal with many problems and issues that currently exist with Surrey’s roads.

He added: “These cover a wide area including communications with residents and councillors, the quality of some of the work undertaken, particularly by sub-contractors, dealing with routine small processes such as signs, bollards and white lines, and the timing and often re-timing of major works.

“If these can be tackled effectively in a new business plan it would be sensible to consider a further extension of the contract but if not a re-tendering process would be appropriate. My own view is that the council should in any re-tendering process consider returning to carrying out the service on an in-house basis.”