We must get on the road to a proper repairs strategy

POTHOLES are more than just annoying - they are dangerous, damaging and are taking vital funds away from our public services.

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Ensuring our roads are up to scratch is one of the core responsibilities of councils and one of the basic things we expect in return for the council tax we pay every year. But, as you may have read this week, it seems that much of our road network is crumbling before our eyes.

The result is that councils across the country are paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation to drivers whose vehicles have been damaged by potholes.

When we use our cars to drive to work or go shopping, the last thing we expect to face is an unexpected breakdown caused by, in some cases, very large holes in the road.

Unfortunately, it seems that more of us are falling victim to poorly maintained roads, and at considerable cost. The claims inevitable vary in size, and can include anything from burst tyres to suspension problems to more serious damage.

More worryingly, it seems that this problem is particularly acute in Glasgow.

The figures - uncovered by the Conservatives under Freedom of Information - show that Glasgow City Council paid out a staggering £360,000 last year to drivers, more than 10 times that of our capital neighbours in Edinburgh.

In stark contrast, a number of local authorities did not have to pay out any claims during the same period.

Whether this is a result of an increase in the so-called "compensation culture" is not clear. However, this rise in costs for local authorities is a worrying trend which must be addressed. In Glasgow's case, it is now putting unsustainable pressure on council budgets.

Some critics suggest the problem is caused by short-term repairs rather than proper investment in the fabric of our roads.

Such a "sticking plaster" approach does little to solve the problem in the long-term, and simply means that potholes open up again whenever the next bout of freezing weather occurs.

Clearly, large vehicle numbers and extreme weather take their toll on our roads, but with proper investment there is no doubt the potential for damage to vehicles and potentially serious accidents can be reduced.

A GOOD start would be the Scottish Government setting an example by taking a lead in investing in our roads and supporting motorists, which might encourage local authorities to do the same.

That's why the Scottish Conservatives campaigned for a Scottish Government fund for potholes - so that councils could make proper repairs now and clear the backlog, rather than having to keep forking out for compensation claims.

At a time when local authorities are having to be careful with their spending, roads budgets are often seen as an easy hit for quick savings and cuts.

But reducing investment in roads simply stores up problems for the future, increasing potential liability for problems resulting from poor roads. Unfortunately, the only way these compensation figures will be reduced is when the overall standard of our roads is improved and maintained.

Protecting roads budgets might involve difficult decisions now, but can Glasgow really afford to keep on paying out nearly £1000 per day in compensation to motorists?

Local government

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