Pothole claims ‘could cost NI taxpayer £4.5m’

DRD said that 90 per cent of the most serious potholes are repaired within five days
DRD said that 90 per cent of the most serious potholes are repaired within five days

They cause misery for motorists in the first instance – and now one MLA has discovered they could cost local taxpayers up to £4.5m next year.

Potholes are an all too familiar problem for drivers, and Thursday was the UK’s first National Pothole Day.

The national campaign aims to highlight shamed roads which are “blighted” by damage.

Stormont Regional Development Committee member David McNarry MLA of Ukip said: “There is a massive pothole problem in Northern Ireland which is indicative of a wider issue right across the UK.

“I asked the department’s director of finance about the costs and knock-on impacts of potholes.

“She told me that some £4.5m had been set aside for compensation for motorists. I asked ‘why don’t you use the money to fix the potholes instead’.

“And she replied that they were dealing with some as priorities but that minor potholes will be left unfixed because we do not have the money to fix them.

“She told me that from April to November last year some 915 claims had been made for compensation by motorists.”

A DRD spokesman responded that it prioritises all defects and aims to repair or make safe over 90 per cent of the most serious defects within five working days.

“Whilst we no longer have assistance from external contractors, our in-house teams are continuing to repair defects across Northern Ireland,” he said. “Despite budget restrictions we are still meeting 90 per cent within five days.”

In September, the Westminster Public Accounts committee reported that compensation claims for damage arising from poor road conditions cost £31.6m in 2013/14.

Potholes cost £52 each to fill in, it added in its report.

Supporting National Pothole Day, Labour’s shadow roads minister, Richard Burden, said the UK faces a “national pothole epidemic” with millions of journeys “blighted” by “battered roads”.

“But Tory ministers are more bothered about a top-down reorganisation of the Highways Agency which looks after just two per cent of UK roads,” he said.

“They are also conning the public about what they are doing about pothole Britain. Budgets for local road maintenance have been savaged and in real terms will be lower in 2020 that they were five years ago.

“It is time the Government sorted their priorities out. On National Pothole Day people are taking the problem into our own hands,” he added.