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Potholes cost small firms 'millions of pounds' in damaged vehicles

Kalila Sangster
Car and winter pothole on open road
Almost 700,000 potholes and road defects were reported in the last year across England, new figures show. Photo: Getty

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said that poorly maintained roads are causing small firms “millions of pounds of damage every year.”

As today marks National Pothole Day, the FSB is calling on the government to make good its manifesto pledge to provide £2bn ($2.6bn) of funding to repair the thousands of potholes on roads across the UK.

Potholes are a serious problem on Britain’s roads. Small businesses rely heavily on the road network, with nine in 10 (89%) small firms considering it to be important for their staff, customers and trade deliveries.

More than £1.9m was paid out in compensation to people who had their vehicles damaged last year. However, just 24% of claims for vehicle damage were successful across England, with the average pay out per claim equating to £257, according to new Freedom of Information figures gathered by the FSB.

Almost 700,000 potholes and road defects were reported in the last year across England and local authorities receive a request to fix a pothole every 46 seconds, the figures show.

The largest number of pothole complaints were lodged in the north-east England where local authorities received over 100,000 calls, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (92,000), the south-central region (almost 88,000), and the south-west (just over 80,000).

Almost £1bn was spent fixing damaged roads and potholes in 2018/19, a figure similar to the previous year, but the FSB says it’s not enough.

Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: “Potholes are a major concern for the nation’s small businesses. Our members rely heavily on the local road network, with their staff, customers and trade deliveries, dependent on fast and efficient road networks.

“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 working without large capital reserves.

“These figures show just how widespread the issue is and it’s clear that the government and local authorities need to sit up and take notice. Measures like more funding for local authorities and improving the co-ordination between authorities and utility companies, will go some way in helping ease the burden of this ever-growing issue.”

A Department of Transport spokesperson said: “Potholes are a nuisance for all road users, which is why this Government has pledged to spend £2 billion over four years so councils can improve their roads. Details of how this will be allocated will be announced soon.

“We are also looking at innovative approaches to highways maintenance to future-proof our roads.”