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Kent County Council misses targets on dealing with potholes

The latest figures for pothole repairs make for grim reading, with most important targets missed.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) show Kent County Council's (KCC’s) highways team and its contractors have fallen short on five of six targets for 2023 so far.

There is a huge backlog of road maintenance repairs
There is a huge backlog of road maintenance repairs

For instance, it failed its aim to complete 87% of priority inquiries within 20 working days by more than half.

One opposition member said the new highways cabinet member, Cllr Neil Baker, needed to take the issue "by the scruff of the neck".

Local driving instructors nickname the holes "car killers" for the costly damage they can inflict on their vehicles.

KCC April to June figures to go before the Environment and Transportation Cabinet Committee on Thursday show a sharp increase year on year in the number of potholes needing repair.

The report notes: "The number of potholes requiring repairs...was 5,376 which was over 50% higher than for the same period last year. The increase in demand was mainly due to the weather.

"The Highways Management team continues to work with Amey [the contractor] to ensure performance gets back to the target level."

Cllr Neil Baker
Cllr Neil Baker

The number of potholes repaired within 28 calendar days was short of the 90% target by 13% for the year to date.

The weather was also blamed for the failure of faults reported by the public not being fixed within 28 calendar days. This was missed by 12% (90% target).

KCC sources said that prolonged freezing conditions in winter and into spring had created much higher demand than usual.

Liberal Democrat councillor Antony Hook said: "You can't just keep blaming the weather. We always have weather!

"Anecdotally, you hear it from every quarter about the state of the roads. Potholes get reported but they take an age to be repaired. So I would say that Neil Baker, who is the new guy in charge, needs to take this by the scruff of the neck."

The customer satisfaction KPI was short of its 95% target by 5%.

Cllr Antony Hook
Cllr Antony Hook

Emergency incidents attended inside two hours were missed too –7% shy of the 98% target.

Cllr Baker was appointed in leader Roger Gough's recent reshuffle of the top team, with Cllr David Brazier removed as transport and highways boss.

Cllr Brazier had conceded before his departure that the repair schedule could continue well into the autumn, such is the backlog.

He recognised that potholed roads were unsightly and gave them the appearance of being uncared for. KCC has also admitted in recent months that the county's highways are now in a state of "managed decline".

The report says residents were unhappy "with delays to repairs following on from the very busy winter and spring where we received high numbers of pothole issues".

Cllr David Brazier
Cllr David Brazier

It adds: "Feedback then moved onto the quality of repairs and poor communications about what we are doing about inquiries.

"This feedback has gone to all service managers to investigate and improve and we are hoping to improve communication to customers that have enquired through the new My Kent Highways system which we hope to roll out by the end of October."

The report says KCC dealt with a total of 687 emergency incident calls between April and June, an increase of 43% compared to the same period last year.

Of those, 627 were successfully attended to within two hours, with 40 failing the target attendance time but with all incidents made safe.

A KCC spokesman said: “We know how disruptive and frustrating it can be for the travelling public when potholes are left untreated, which is why we are continuing to work hard to repair all the faults that are discovered on our roads.

There’s been a 50% rise in the number of potholes. Stock image
There’s been a 50% rise in the number of potholes. Stock image

“This financial year we have welcomed an additional £6 million investment from the government to ensure we can repair safety critical defects, meaning the total investment in road and footway maintenance repairs and resurfacing for 2023/24 is expected to be in the order of £50 million.

“A further six additional contractors have been appointed to ensure we have everything we need to deliver the level of repair required.

“This work has been going on since winter when Kent’s roads were battered with wintry and icy conditions and will continue throughout the summer and autumn months.”

Cllr Baker has been approached for a comment.

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