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Opinion: Tory SCC Top Of England’s Pothole Payouts, Says R4GV

Published on: 23 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2021

This is the second of the Opinion pieces from the parties standing in the Surrey County Council election on May 6……

By Lucy Connor

R4GV Candidate for Guildford South West

Guildford’s drivers and cyclists are well-acquainted with our road lumps and bumps.

One social media group, “Pot Holes of Guildford” has 418 members, many using humour to handle their frustration with the deterioration in our road network. Two reported problems that have existed “nearly six years”.

In March 2021, Matt Furniss, county council cabinet member for Highways, announced an AI scheme to detect them, saying SCC had “…fixed 200,000 potholes over the past four years”. This surprised residents who have been reporting problems via FixMyStreet for some time and seen absolutely no improvement.

Lucy Connor, R4GV candidate for Guildford South West.

The county council gets about three-quarters of the council tax we pay. A 2021 SCC document shows a one-off investment of £264 million has been made in our highways to make “getting around the county safer and smoother”.

Are you convinced our highways are safer and smoother? Are you confident this money has been well-spent?

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request covering the 2018-2019 financial year, reveals SCC paid more compensation to drivers than any other council in England.

This FoI request showed £323,222 in compensation was paid after 3,533 complaints in just one year, a third more than the next highest offender who paid only £217,992. And it’s your money.

This week the RAC reported a record rise in pothole-related breakdown callouts between January and March 2021, with the South East reporting the most.

The RAC described many roads being in a “desperate state”, with “Many drivers… finding themselves having to use roads that in places better resemble the surface of the moon”. Recognise that description?

We know the Conservative-controlled county council has a history of financial mismanagement and service failure. So, we have to ask if pothole management is another victim of SCC waste, mismanagement and incompetence?

Like most Guildford borough residents I’d like to know:
• Are Guildford’s roads being assessed on a regular schedule, backed up by a capital investment programme, to determine what maintenance is required?
• Who decides the most effective long-term repair for each pothole to ensure the repair lasts?
• How is the work of Kier, Surrey’s highways contractor, systematically inspected, and by whom?
• How much of the work does Kier subcontract, meaning the same budget has to deliver two profit margins?
• How is SCC co-ordinating the utility companies and monitoring how well roads are reinstated after they have been dug up?

The county council Conservatives are advocating a single unitary authority for Surrey, which will further dilute the voice of residents when it comes to road maintenance.

In contrast, R4GV believes smaller unitary authorities would be much more able to respond to residents and to deliver the efficient and effective road maintenance service SCC is failing to deliver.

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