SOMERSET drivers have made more than 5,000 complaints about potholes to road chiefs in the past 12 months, it has been revealed.

New figures, obtained by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, show how Somerset County Council received 5,286 queries about potholes in 2018/19.

The FSB’s national report revealed that local authorities across the country receive a complaint to fix a pothole every 46 seconds - with the South West receiving the fourth largest amount of complaints.

The spot with the most complaints from residents was the Hankridge Roundabout in Taunton.

In all, around 80,000 complaints about potholes were made across the South West during 2018/19 with Devon having by far the highest amount – 30,000.

In total, almost £1 billion has been spent fixing damaged roads and holes in 2018/19 with nearly £2 million paid out in compensation to claimants that had their vehicles damaged.

The figures revealed that just 24 per cent of claims for vehicle damage were successful across England, with the average pay out per claim equating to £257.

Now, the FSB, Britain’s largest business representation group, is calling for a number of measures to help improve road infrastructure across the country, including:

• More funding for local authorities from central government to support planned regular maintenance programmes, and to help alleviate the pothole problem. Unless additional funding is provided, the road maintenance problem is likely to increase over time, meaning more will need to be spent on repairs and damage claims.

• Better coordination is needed between utilities companies and local authorities when roads need to be dug up. The amount of time that utility companies are responsible for the road they have dug up should be extended from the current two to five years.

• FSB also wants to see Government ensuring there is a simple system for both reporting potholes locally, as well as for submitting claims for damage to vehicles.

• Local authorities should use innovative technology to monitor road condition to enable them to identify deteriorating roads, learning from trailblazer councils.

Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: “Potholes are a major concern for the nation’s small businesses.

"Our members rely heavily on the local road network, with their staff, customers and trade deliveries, dependent on fast and efficient road networks.

“Poorly looked-after roads peppered with holes and cracks not only hamper their ability to do business, but lead to damaged vehicles, which are often vital assets to small firms often working without large capital reserves.

“These figures show just how widespread the issue is and it’s clear that governments, both national and local, need to sit up and take notice.

"Measures like more funding for local authorities and improving the coordination between authorities and utility companies, will go some way in helping ease the burden of this ever-growing issue.”

A Somerset County County Council spokesperson said: “The County’s network is rated band 3 by the Department of Transport, which is the highest score available, and in the last 10 years we’ve seen a steady decrease in the number of potholes.

“We support the FSB in its call for more government funding and have repeatedly lobbied for sustainable, long-term funding for highways so we can plan ahead.

“Our approach is to avoid potholes in the first place with comprehensive inspections and planned maintenance that includes resurfacing, surface dressing and reconstruction when needed.

“We do our own inspections and encourage the public to help us as much as possible to report potholes and we have made this much easier to do online.

“Our highways team uses new technology and is always open to new ideas. We carry out an annual programme of condition surveys using Road Assessment Vehicles that carry out high speed recording of road surface conditions.

“As the local Highway Authority we work closely with all Utility companies and are always looking at ways to improve the co-ordination and quality of works on our local highway network. We agree with the FSB, that the amount of time that utility companies guarantee their works should be extended from the current two to five years and we responded as such to the recent Government consultation on this matter.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said it was providing councils with more than £6.6 billion between 2015 and 2020 to take care of roads.

“We are also investing in trials of new road materials and repair techniques as well as using technologies to help councils predict when roads will need repairs and prevent potholes,” the spokesman added.

Potholes in numbers (UK 2018/19):

  • Total spend on road repair: £949,866,134
  • Total number of complains about damaged road surfaces/potholes: 699,535
  • Total number of claims, successful or otherwise, for vehicle damage as a result of potholes or damaged roads: 31,620
  • Number of successful claims: 7,706
  • Total amount paid out: £1,978,676