Botched Roadworks Cost Taxpayers Millions

Councils left to foot the bill after utility companies fail to properly patch up streets

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Contractors digging up roads on behalf of utility companies are failing to properly patch them up, leaving councils to foot the bill for £70 million worth of damage.

In England and Wales last year, workmen dug two million holes in the roads, leaving a trail of tailbacks and expensive repairs behind them. Some 360,000 were not completed to the agreed specification, with work either over-running, or roads not restored to their original condition.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents about 350 councils in England and Wales, is calling for councils to be given stronger powers to ensure roadworks are timed to cause the minimum disruption to motorists, and to guarantee roads are repaired properly once work has finished

Repairing damage wreaked on roads by utility companies costs council taxpayers an estimated £70 million per year, figures show.

Cllr Peter Box, Chairman of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “Contractors should not be allowed to get away with botching road repairs and then leaving council tax payers to foot the bill.

“Roadworks are a pet hate of all motorists. Many would no doubt be surprised to learn that most road closures don’t even result in the condition of roads improving and many actually make them worse.

“Councils face the joint challenge of managing the toughest spending cuts in living memory and tackling a £10.5 billion backlog in road maintenance

“It is only right that companies which drill and dig up our roads pay their fair share towards fixing the damage.”

The LGA is proposing utility companies pay a bond or deposit in advance of roadworks to make it easier for councils to recoup the cost of damage caused by inferior road repairs and encourage utilities to get it right first time.

Local authorities should also be able to reduce disruption for motorists by stipulating when, where and how often companies are allowed to dig up roads.

The LGA is calling for Government to scrap the unnecessary bureaucracy and red-tape which makes it difficult for local authorities to introduce permit schemes for regulating streetworks in their area.

Cllr Box added: “Drivers are quite rightly fed up of being held up in miles of tailbacks while workmen take over roads for weeks on end. It’s not unusual to see one utility company starting digging up a road again within weeks of another finishing there.

“Local authorities should be able to hold these firms to account and ensure that any routine maintenance work is co-ordinated. This will mean fewer holes in the roads and fewer unnecessary delays for motorists.”

April 20, 2011