Bucks will sort potholes after record winter damage, says the man at the top

  |  Published: May 15th 2018
Mark Shaw with planed road surface ready for patching
Mark Shaw with planed road surface ready for patching. Photo courtesy Buckinghamshire County Council.

Mark Shaw fears his photo is fixed to a thousand dartboards.

He’s the man in charge of more than 2,000 miles of Buckinghamshire’s roads and it’s the height of the pothole complaint season.

Given this year’s particularly harsh winter across the country which included the infamous  'beast from the east' artic blast, it’s not a problem unique to Buckinghamshire. Indeed, figures for the FixMyStreet website, by which residents up and down the country can report problems on their roads, shows Buckinghamshire riding high among the best performing highways authorities nationally in terms of response times.

Mark, however, understands why residents get so frustrated.

“This year, because we had the bad weather before Christmas, people’s complaints started literally on Boxing Day and they will probably carry through until the end of this month when we should have had a good crack at clearing many of the major pothole problems across the county,” he said.

“People want to know why a pothole can’t be fixed straight away but it’s very difficult. We can go out in the cold and wet weather but the repairs will only be temporary.

“If it’s on a major road or you need to have traffic lights to do the work, then that takes time to organise so we can’t always get there and sort it the next day. There's no magic wand that simply fixes everything.”

Mark, the Buckinghamshire County Council cabinet member for transportation, admitted: “It gets very difficult when residents are very angry, but I understand. I use the roads in Buckinghamshire; my family use the roads. About 20 years ago I hit a big pothole and took out two wheels of my car, so I absolutely sympathise with what people are saying.”

“The worst thing people can do is just moan about potholes but not report them to us through FixMyStreet. If you report it we’ll act on it and we’ll sort it.

Mark explained: “This year we have taken money out of reserves. We have increased the money we are spending on reactive repairs – ie potholes – to £3 million. That’s on top of the £2 million we would normally spend on pothole repairs.

“We have got a £15 million resurfacing programme – that’s £10 million we get from the government and £5 million we put in from our own funds. That’s more than many councils do – many just spend the statutory money they get from government but we are putting 50% above it in terms of resurfacing.”

Last year Buckinghamshire County Council fixed about 38,000 potholes and it could be nearer 44,000 this year.

Mark is sympathetic to motorists, but he said: “It’s not just down to us to make the roads safe. It’s important that people drive according to the condition of the road.”

The only effective way to make the roads safe for the long term, he said, is to resurface them.

Mark said: “If we could spend about £28 million to £30 million that would be the optimum amount to maintain the roads while keeping the county moving.”

The scrapping of Buckinghamshire County Council and four district councils, to be replaced by a single unitary authority, could also help, he said.

“A new single council for Buckinghamshire would save at least £18m every year,” he said. “It would be for the new council to decide how that money is spent but, yes, I think there would be a strong argument for some of it to be spent on the roads.”

The quickest and simplest way to report potholes is via the County Council's website - www.fixmystreet.buckscc.gov.uk

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