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Friday, 22 May 2015

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‘Pothole repairs are short term plaster’

COLD water has been poured on claims by Northumberland County Council that it has lived up to its pledge to clear the county’s backlog of pothole repairs.

Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman fears that the millions of pounds of Government money poured into the county to repair potholes will be money down the drain.

He said: “I have had many constituents complaining to me about the poor quality of the council’s pothole repairs.

“What worries me is we have seen a quick fix rush to save the council’s blushes after they promised they would all be fixed before the end of June.

“It is all well and good the council patting itself on the back but poor quality patching will mean in a few months things will be back to square one.”

Northumberland was given an extra £2.9m for road repairs last month, more than any other county in the North-East.

That’s on top of £2.7m received from the emergency £183.5m the Government made available to help repair local roads damaged by severe weather.

The North-East as a whole was awarded £6,298,272, with more than a third – £2,736,241 – allocated to Northumberland.

Mr Opperman said he had reports of pothole repairs coming loose just weeks after being completed.

Mr Opperman said: “It is great we have received such a high level of funding from the Government for road repairs but I am very worried the county council’s patching offers very poor value for money in the long term.

“I am pleased we have many potholes being repaired but I am afraid the question local people is asking is just how long will they last?

“I have had many reports of patching being laid on failed areas which suggest the underlying materials are in a poor state – that means the repair is going to be very short term.

“The simple truth is prevention is better than cure and it is important the job is done right the first time.”

Leader of the Conservative group on the county council, Coun. Peter Jackson, said it was clear that the council had failed in its promise to eliminate all potholes in Northumberland.

He said: “Their quick jack patching has put a short term plaster over some of the holes but we know that these patches are already popping out.

“One spell of bad weather and we will be back to square one.

“Everyone in Tynedale knows that our roads are in a seriously bad state, with road closures being contemplated in some areas due to the poor condition of the road structure. What is needed is a longer term rebuilding and resurfacing of our road system.

“With their mistaken claims to have fixed the problem, Labour are either deluding themselves or deliberately trying to mislead residents. They need to get over here and look for themselves.”

Since January this year, council staff have filled in the outstanding backlog of 12,213 potholes, making a total of more than 32,000 potholes filled since May last year.

Simultaneously, the normal road repair programme had seen an additional 30,000 potholes filled.

However, the council acknowledged there were around 30 locations in the county where there has been more serious structural damage, which were scheduled to be repaired by this autumn.

Council leader Coun. Grant Davey said: “It’s a shame that Mr Opperman is at odds with his own Government.

“They’ve recognised our innovative and effective approach to tackling a scandalous backlog built up over five years with hard cash.

“It seems the MP can’t stop his addiction to party politicking when he should be welcoming the Labour administration’s concentrated efforts to tackle the blight of potholes.

“He’s got a simple question to answer – why has his own Government backed the council’s innovative pothole pledge to the tune of millions of pounds?

“Is he going to ask the minister to take back the money?”

Northumberland County Council’s policy board member for streetcare and environment Coun. Ian Swithenbank said: “Many tens of millions of pounds of capital investment will be needed to ensure the life of the roads for years to come.

“This is an issue that this council, as well as many others, will face.

“Our workforce has worked very hard in order to clear this backlog of potholes. We will continue to do all we can to make the roads as safe as possible for drivers in our county.”