Pothole count has soared says the AA

Roads are "plagued with potholes" even before winter sets in, according to a survey by the AA.

North-east England and Scotland have the most potholes, reports from an army of AA streetwatchers revealed.

Each of the 1,000 watchers, tasked with checking the conditions of roads and paths, found an average of 14.9 potholes compared with 12.5 a year ago.

The average at present for north east England is 19 potholes per neighbourhood, while the Scotland average is 20.1.

Across the Midlands, for every three repaired potholes, there was one that the councils had marked but not repaired yet.

This compared with a UK average of six repaired to one marked but not repaired.

Against a national average of 12.8 repaired potholes per neighbourhood, south east England averaged 13.7, south west England 13.8, Scotland 14 and north east England 16.4.

AA president Edmund King said: "Our streetwatch volunteers have once again shown that the UK has a pothole plague which has not gone away despite extra repairs this year.

"Highways authorities need to get to grips with the pothole problem, as compensation claims will soar when cold weather strikes and roads start breaking up again placing greater burdens on already strained budgets."

He added: "Many councils have been swamped by the deluge of potholes, yet the evidence from the south west suggests the problem can be turned round.

"Although we are sympathetic with the plight that councils find themselves in austere times, the fact remains that we are seeing the legacy of a Cinderella approach to road maintenance funding over many years.

"The job now falls to them to rectify past failings and prevent drivers, cyclists and pedestrians paying a price on roads they pay tax to have properly maintained."

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "Local roads are managed by local highway authorities and they are best placed to use their local knowledge and experience to decide how to prioritise expenditure across all their services, including their local roads.

"Despite the current severe fiscal restraints we are providing £3 billion to councils for road maintenance over the next four years and an additional £6 million for longer-term strategies.

"This Government is still providing more funding in cash terms on road maintenance than in the previous four years.

"It follows that any cuts that have been made lie fairly and squarely with the local authorities concerned.

"On top of this we have exceptionally provided an extra windfall of £200 million to repair potholes on the local road network following the severe winter weather at the end of last year."

Councillor Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said councils filled a record 2.2 million potholes last year - one every 15 seconds.

He added that during 2010/11 they spent £1.3 billion repairing roads, £128 million more than the previous year, despite having their highways' budgets cut by the Government.

He went on: "Three severe winters in a row have devastated many of the nation's roads and it's a constant battle to keep on top of potholes.

"The extra cost of last year's winter alone was about £400 million.

"Across the country town halls are exploring new technologies and approaches to get the most from their diminishing road budgets and testament to this innovation is that they've reduced the cost of filling potholes by 30 per cent.

"Parts of the country which have milder winters have less destruction wreaked on their roads by ice.

"Ranking geographical areas without taking this major factor into account displays a fundamental lack of understanding about road maintenance."

Mr Box continued: "Councils prioritise potholes based on safety concerns with those on major roads often filled within a few hours of being reported.

"They welcome information from residents who can report damage by calling their town hall, via its website or even mobile phone apps.

"Potholes are potholes. Councils spending time and money on elaborate colour-coding systems is of little consequence to the road users who have to negotiate them.

"And unless road users knew on what day the council had coloured a certain pothole, the exercise would be largely immaterial."

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