Councillor hits out at pothole minister

Cllr Guy McGregor
Cllr Guy McGregor
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THE Government should put its own road policies in order before telling others how to fix them, Suffolk’s highways boss has said.

Suffolk County Council’s transport portfolio holder Guy McGregor was responding to the local transport minister Norman Baker’s plea on Tuesday to councils to follow ‘new’ advice from The Pothole Review, part of the Coalition’s £6 million Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme. His department says it looks at how best to fix potholes once they have formed and how to prevent them.

Promising £3 billion to councils for maintenance, Mr Baker said: “I would urge all those involved with highways maintenance to adopt the approaches set out in this report, not only to make real cost savings but also to provide a high quality service.”

The report says prevention is better than cure, that repairs should be ‘right first time’ and councils should tell the public what they are doing.

But Cllr McGregor said: “This is advice for authorities outside Suffolk – it’s what we’re doing.

“If you look at the quality of the [government maintained] A14 it’s disturbing how poor that is. If they want to look at the standards of road maintenance they want to look at the A14.”

He also called on the Government to review the size of vehicles allowed on minor roads and said whenever councils tried to object to plans that would send large lorries into remote locations on unsuitable roads, they were turned down at planning appeal.

“I would also remind them that road fund licence was originally raised locally to fund road repairs but that’s now been subsumed into mainstream taxation,” he said. “There is now a huge imbalance between what is raised on road fund licence and what is spent on the roads.”

Cllr McGregor said the council now took a ‘right first time’ approach but materials allowing that were relitively new and it was not always possible. For example, the surface may need to be made safe until the underlying structure can be repaired.

Though roads are inspected on a schedule according to their classification, he urged people to report potholes through their parish council or direct to the county highways department.

Suffolk’s highways and transport services budget for 2010/11 was £54.9 million of £478.9 million spent on services.