County council leader apologises and promises ‘lessons have been learned’ over slow response to pothole repair

Cllr Steve Count PHOTO: John Elworthy

Cllr Steve Count PHOTO: John Elworthy - Credit: Archant

County council leader Steve Count has apologised for the pothole crisis that hit Cambridgeshire and said “we could have and should have done better”.

His comments came after he spent two hours with other councillors at a ‘pothole seminar’ at Shire Hall, in Cambridge, when officers were quizzed on the action plan to tackle the issue.

Cllr Count believes the council has now learnt its lesson “and I will actively continue to challenge to ensure those lessons are implemented”.

He said: “One thing this situation did was expose was the cracks in our own organisation in dealing effectively with this increased volume of repairs.”

The council leader said he acknowledged “that there has been a problem in terms of quality of repair and consistency of repair across the county”.

He explained how the ‘dragon patcher’ has been “incredibly effective” in repairing potholes in difficult temperatures which a gritting crew could not do.

Dragon patchers produced 11 times the output of gritting crews at less than half the cost per hole, the council said. The authority has ordered two further patchers that were due to arrive in June or July.

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The council’s first dragon patcher made about 1,700 repairs in its first month on the roads - repairing up to 150 potholes a day.

Cllr Count said the ‘Beast from the East’ that hit Cambridgeshire this year was soon forgotten but left a lasting legacy.

“By the end of March more potholes had been reported than the entire previous year,” he said.

“Our gritting crews did 26 nights in February and 14 in March; an almost unbroken and unheard of run of 40 days in a row.

“When the roads froze and then thawed an ever increasing pothole number and long lasting damage occurred.”

Cllr Count said the night crews were often part of the pot hole repair team and “worked tirelessly to keep our roads open and safe”.

He added: “When not gritting the ever increasing spate of pothole reports were addressed with emergency and dangerous repairs taking precedence.”

Now the weather had improved the council was bringing down the backlog and improving the standard of roads once again.

Cllr Count added: “To the crews I say ‘thank you for doing your best in extremely challenging situations’.

“To the public I apologise and say we could have and should have done better. However the county council I believe has learnt its lesson and I will actively continue to challenge to ensure those lessons are implemented.”