LAST week, news of a single claim for £1.8m in damages from a pothole leaked out of Somerset County Council (County Gazette, October 5).

The council is remaining typically tight-lipped as to the nature of the claim, but we can assume that the pothole must have caused either some pretty serious personal injury or a transporter-load of Ferraris to enter a river.

We will continue to dig until full details are made available.
Somerset County Council has long boasted of the number of potholes it repairs each year as though this is some sort of badge of honour.

In reality, as the Opposition have pointed out for many years, many of these potholes would not appear in the first place if Somerset’s road were being maintained properly.

Year after year, Somerset has slashed the highways maintenance budget in response to dwindling central government funding.

And it’s an entirely false economy.

For every pound saved on resurfacing, the council will need to find another £7 just 5 years later to make good the additional damage done by not looking after the road surface – it’s a textbook example of a false economy.

Things have now reached such a crisis point that in Taunton Deane, Somerset County Council has allocated only enough funding to resurface SEVEN roads outside the primary network.

The list of Taunton Deane roads that already require surfacing will take 20 years to resurface.

These are roads that require attention now; imagine what condition they’ll be in after another 20 years of wear. And that’s without adding any more to the list.

READ MORE: REVEALED: The £1.8m pothole compensation payout

The Conservative administration claims it is managing the council’s resources prudently in order to avoid loading costs on to future generations.

Yet it is doing the opposite with highways maintenance, minimising current expenditure while building up an exponentially-growing contingent liability.

And matters are only likely to get worse as further cuts are made to council funding.

This week we learned that in future, Somerset County Council will be letting highway contracts based on an evaluation of price and quality, weighted 70/30 in favour of price.

No other council in the UK is skewing their tender process so strongly in favour of price, the clear risk being that quality will suffer even further.

We call for the council to undertake a study to quantify the cost of the current backlog of maintenance work together with an assessment of the additional costs racked up by deferring essential maintenance work.

Opposition transport spokesman
Somerset County Council