Thursday, April 30, 2009

£300k extra for new pothole repairs- but it is still a drop in the ocean!

The fabled 'Rhinopatch' machine

Good, great and bad news!

I have pressed the council to find more money centrally to help support the Highways Service reactive repairs programme (in English, that really means the gangs who repair potholes) and the GREAT news is the Conservative Administration has been able to find the extra cash. As anyone who drives or cycles in Southampton knows, the state of our roads is appalling after decades of underinvestment.

The GOOD news (and this is almost impossible to quantify), the money will fill anything up to 4000- 4500 pot holes which is by anybodies recognising, a significant amount. Since becoming the portfolio holder for Environment & Transport, I have worked hard to try and raise the productivity of the service. Morale was low, absenteeism high, the quality of repairs variable and productivity at times unacceptable. Our first step was to introduce a private sector partner, in the form of Colas, to work with us and crucially actually embed their staff into the management of the Council's organisation. They had access to all sorts of capital equipment and road treatments that a relatively small unitary authority could not afford (such as the Rhinopatch machine, pictured above). We commissioned gangs from Colas to work alongside our own crews to benchmark our own productivity- and help raise it. Our record keeping was shambolic. We have bought an off the shelf computerised system to ensure that jobs are not 'lost' rather than relying on paper based methods. We recruited dedicated Highways inspectors who would examine defects, arrange for the repairs to be carried out and then check the quality of the work post-completion. We sorted out our procurement so we were not over paying on materials. And with a near doubling of productivity, we have committed to spend an additional £700k p.a. each and every year for the next four years. So no one can say, despite the chronic underfunding that the Conservative-run Southampton City Council faces from central government, that we are not doing our bit.

The BAD news is, it is not enough. Some of our roads shouldn't be maintained by the city at all (such as the A35 and A3024). Despite being designated by the Highways Agency as roads of 'national strategic or economic importance', the HA refuses to fund their repair. Even more serious is that since about September last year, the government has been procrastinating on releasing a whole new round of PFI credits. From a Southampton perspective, it is vital that we get a slice of that government money to repair our appalling road network in Southampton. Central government should wake up to its responsibilities and fund local authorities properly to do this essential work.


Anonymous downfader said...

As a local cyclist I think any investment is good and should be welcomed. I am one of many who regularly tries to fill in the actionline forms on potholes and road defects yet you often feel this information just gets logged until either someone crashes and wants (rightly) compensation or the road surface gets so bad that the road is unusable (as has happened in a few places)

Good luck, I hope you get the money you need! I'm trying to write a letter on cycling issues to No.10 and one of those issues is obviously road surfacing. Hopefully a few other cyclists I know will be doing the same.

Good luck again!

8:52 pm  
Blogger Matt Dean said...

Thanks Downfader.
i am very mindful that we need to make the City more cycle friendly and indeed there is some evidence that cycle use is increasing in the city yet in some places, the state of the carriageway is totally unacceptable- but you are right- the £300k will help.

4:42 pm  
Anonymous downfader said...

Yeah cycle usage is up this year. It was right down last year where I was riding (possibly due to the reports of accidents in the papers and the foul weather)

12:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you lose records of the pot holes. The council only has to drive around the city since they are clearly there for all to see!

9:01 am  

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