A recent FOI request by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) of all 33 London Boroughs has revealed that the total spend on repairing potholes has increased by 54% compared to 2017/18. Latest figures show that London’s local authorities have spent £55,470,868 fixing damaged roads and holes. This compares to £949,866,134 spent across England.
The statistics reveal that £139,460 has been paid out in compensation to claimants that had their vehicles damaged last year. This is an increase of almost 7% on 2017/18. However, the figures show that just 20% of the 1,843 claims received by all 33 London Borough Councils led to any form of compensation, with the average pay out per claim equating to £384. Last year (2017/18), 16% of the 1,673 claims received were successful.
Southwark Council received the largest amount of complaints over potholes, registering 8,685 complaints/requests/raised work orders. Last year, only 322 complaints/requests were recorded.
Potholes are a major blight on Greater London roads. Small businesses rely heavily on the road network, with nine in 10 (89%) small firms considering the road network to be important, for their staff, customers and trade deliveries. Road users deserve to travel in safety. Tyres, suspension and steering are all crucial components of any vehicle and are all susceptible to damage after hitting a pothole.
This year, the top three London boroughs with the lowest number of complaints related to potholes are Kensington & Chelsea with only 55 complaints/requests recorded, along with Hammersmith & Fulham (149) and Islington (150).
The London Borough of Barnet remains top of the table for the highest number of damage claims received, with 311 claims, an increase on 2017/18 (292 claims). For 2018/19, it has cost the local authority almost £10,000 more with a total of 100 successful claims totalling £33,455 compared to 74 successful claims last year (2017/18).
In contrast, none of the following London councils incurred any claimant costs in 2018/19: Camden Council; City of London Council; Waltham Forest Council.
FSB (London) is calling for a number of measures to help improve road infrastructure across the capital, including:
• More funding for local authorities from central government to support planned regular maintenance programmes, and to help alleviate the pothole problem. Unless additional funding is provided, the road maintenance problem is likely to increase over time, meaning more will need to be spent on repairs and damage claims.
• Better co-ordination is needed between utilities companies and local authorities when roads need to be dug up. The amount of time that utility companies are responsible for the road they have dug up should be extended from the current two to five years.
• FSB also wants to see Government ensuring there is a simple system for both reporting potholes locally, as well as for submitting claims for damage to vehicles.
• Local authorities should use innovative technology to monitor road condition to enable them to identify deteriorating roads, learning from trailblazer councils.
Sue Terpilowski OBE, FSB London Policy Chair, said: “Potholes are a major concern for London’s small businesses. Our members rely heavily on the local road network, with their staff, customers and trade deliveries, dependent on an efficient road network.
“Poorly looked-after roads peppered with holes and cracks not only hamper their ability to do business, but lead to damaged vehicles, which are often vital assets to small firms often working without large capital reserves.
“These figures show that potholes are a continuing issue for both small businesses and the local authority areas they do business within, and it’s clear that governments, both national and local, need to sit up and take notice.
Potholes are not only a danger to road users, they cause costly repairs, traffic congestion and bottlenecks, leading to consequent disruption to trading for our smaller businesses and the self-employed.
“London is already an expensive area to do business with soaring costs. Measures like more funding for local authorities and improving the coordination between authorities and utility companies, will go some way in helping ease the burden of this ever-growing issue.”