VOTE: There may not be enough in budget for road repairs

Mending potholes and keeping on top of road maintenance is likely to be one of the biggest headaches for West Sussex County Council’s top highways officer Steve Johnson this year.

And when he was asked at a North Chichester County Local Committee meeting whether he reckoned there would be enough in WSCC’s ever-shrinking budget to tackle road problems, Mr Johnson could only reply: “I don’t know at this time.”

He pointed to a huge backlog of road work waiting to be repaired, the uncertainties over future work emerging with worse weather conditions still expected and limited funds.

“Looking after our highways is always a major problem,” Mr Johnson told the meeting. “And you will recall that last year because of the amount of damage caused throughout the winter we were forced into cancelling last year’s capital projects programme and spent £15m filling in potholes and resurfacing roads.”

He said from October 1 last year to January 17 a total of 5,082 potholes had been identified across West Sussex roads, but during the same time some three weeks had been lost in work time due to the severe weather.

“We have probably filled in about 50 per cent of those potholes, but somewhere across the area there are some 2,500 potholes waiting for us to get to them.”

He said it was a ‘huge task’ and already there were concerns about having sufficient money in the budget to cope.

“We have been granted a loan out of next year’s allocation, of £400,000 to be able to make some inroads,” said Mr Johnson.

But an added headache was the fact that traditionally, the worst month in terms of weather affecting the state of roads, still lay ahead in February which could produce yet more problems for the highways budget.

“At the moment we have a working backlog of 2,500,” he said.

West Sussex County Council has put out a plea to motorists to report potholes as early as possible. Its pothole hotline is 01243 642105 or they can be reported via the county council’s website at www.westsussex.gov.uk