Ever wondered why Highways fill potholes in poor weather conditions, and then the job has to be done again? It’s down to the ‘liability to repair’, a madness of the outsourcing system.

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The most common complaint in parish councils the last few weeks has been that pothole repairs by Skanska, Devon’s Highways contractor, are too often failing, leading to the same hole being filled two or even three times in a short period. (While of course, holes which are not classed as ‘safety defects’ are left unfilled, as per the contract the Council has given them.)

When I asked about this,  I was told that while Skanska’s work is mostly of a good standard, they are filling too many holes when roads are pouring with water or frozen. And the explanation for this – they have a contractual ‘liability to repair’ within certain deadlines (often ‘next day’). It seems to be another madness of the outsourcing system – if Devon didn’t need to specify the contractor’s liabilities so tightly, a more sensible approach to repairs could be adopted. Bring it all back in-house?

Devon Highways is reviewing its ‘safety defect’ policy towards roads and potholes

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The Chief Officer for Highways, Meg Booth, presented a report to Devon County Council’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee this week which says that ‘Work is ongoing with Skanska [the Council’s contractor] using a “Systems Thinking” approach to review the management of safety defects.’

I welcomed this and told Ms Booth that the existing policy, under which only potholes 300mm+ wide or 40mm+ deep at the edge are regarded as ‘safety defects’ – leading to one pothole being filled while one next to it is left – has no public support. I have discussed this with every one of the 9 parish councils in Seaton and Colyton and and the policy has no credibility either with councillors or members of the public. Let’s hope we will now see a more comprehensive policy towards potholes!