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Britain’s pothole problem worsens

Press release: 07/11/2014

  • Councils in some of the areas worst hit by last winter’s storms have seen claims for pothole damage rise by 23%
  • More than 26,000 compensation claims have been made in the past financial year, an increase of 13% on the previous year
  • Councils have paid out more than £5 million in compensation to drivers in the past two years for pothole damage to cars
  • One in six (16%) drivers have experienced car damage as a result of poor road surfaces in the past 12 months

Councils in some of the areas worst hit by last winter’s storms have faced a huge rise in compensation claims from motorists whose cars have been damaged by potholes.

According to new research from LV= Road Rescue, there are now so many potholes on British roads that one in six (16%) drivers have been left with damage to their cars in the road in the past 12 months[1].

Potholes, which can damage the suspension and wheels of a car, as well as burst tyres, develop when rain or floodwater collects in cracks on the road surface. Britain experienced some of the worst storms on record last winter with some areas getting nearly twice as much rainfall as usual (175%+), which caused flash flooding and left many roads under water for days. As a result, councils in the areas with some of the heaviest rainfall, such as the West Country, Kent and those around the River Thames, have seen compensation claims for pothole damage to cars rise by a quarter (23%) on average[2].

Across the UK, councils have received more than 26,000 compensation claims for damage relating to potholes in the past financial year, an increase of 13% from 2011/2012[3]. Common claims include potholes ruining wheel rims to punctured tyres and damaged suspension.

Official figures show that councils in England, Wales and Scotland have paid out more than £5 million in compensation for potholes or other road damage in the past two financial years[4]. So far this year Vale of Glamorgan Council has already paid out more than £152,000 in compensation, Surrey County Council has paid out £134,000 and Devon County Council has paid out £91,000.

Data from councils show the A509 in Milton Keynes and Fir Tree Road in Banstead, Epsom Downs are some of the worst roads for potholes in the UK resulting in 123 and 116 compensation claims respectively since 2012[5].

Despite greater investment in maintaining and fixing road surfaces and potholes[6], road maintenance in the UK is still severely under-funded, with around £63 spent per driver per year on maintaining and fixing roads[7]. Short-term fixes are often chosen over longer-term solutions, with one in six (16%) councils saying they usually temporarily fix potholes rather than resurface the area[8]. In fact, the average British road is resurfaced just every 58 years, according to councils.

Among all drivers one in six (16%) have experienced car damage as a result of poor road surfaces in the past 12 months, paying out £118 for the average repair cost. The most common problems include tyre damage (49%), suspension problems (34%) and broken wheel rims (28%). Yet motorists have not only had to pay out to fix damage to their cars as a result of potholes, one in six (16%) drivers have swerved to avoid a pothole and nearly had an accident.

Peter Horton, Managing Director of LV= Road Rescue, comments: “Persistently heavy rain and flooding earlier in the year created the perfect storm for Britain’s pothole epidemic. Councils therefore face difficult choices in the roads they prioritise for repair this winter. Motorists should protect themselves by keeping an eye out for potholes and keeping speeds down – particularly in wet weather when potholes may be filled by rain.”

Table 1. Worst 10 areas for potholes in 2013/2014 (ranked by compensation paid out) *



How much the council paid out to drivers in compensation in 2013/2014*

Number of compensation claims for damage caused by poor roads in 2013/2014


Wiltshire Council




Vale of Glamorgan**




Surrey County Council**




Devon County Council**




Hertfordshire County Council**




Lancashire County Council**




Cambridgeshire County Council




East Sussex County Council**




Oxfordshire County Council**




Bury Council



*It is worth noting that not all successful compensation claims made in 2013/2014 were paid out in 2013/2014
**Figures given for January – August 2014

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Notes to editors:

LV= Road Rescue issued Freedom of Information requests to 434 UK city, district, borough and county councils. Of these 143 responded with at least one piece of data. 61 are either yet to respond, said that they didn’t keep the data, and 230 said that they were not responsible for road maintenance in their area.

Additional research conducted among 2,003 GB adults aged 18+ (of which 1,605 were drivers) was conducted online between 13 and 15 August 2014 by ICM. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at

[1] Source: ICM Research. Calendar years 2013 and 2014.

[2] According to the Hydrology Summary for the United Kingdom report from the NERC some of the heaviest rainfall between October 2013 and March 2014 were in the Thames, West Country and Kent areas, all of which saw the average rainfall increase by more than 175% over the period compared to the 1971-2000 average (figures from the Met Office).

Within these areas, Wiltshire Council reports a 21% increase in pothole claims in 2013/2014 compared to 2012/2013, Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames saw a 26% increase and Kent Council saw a 23% increase, giving an average of 23%.

[3] Source: council figures. There were 23,091 compensation claims in 2012/2013 and 26,120 claims in 2013/2014, a 13% increase.

[4] Source: council figures. Financial years 2012/2013 and 2013/2014.

[5] According to Milton Keynes Council the A509 has had 123 compensation claims reported since January 2012 and Surrey County Council said that the road producing the most number of claims has been Fir Tree Road in Banstead/Epsom Downs which has produced 116 claims in the period from 3 April 2012 to 12 February 2014.

[6] Source: council figures. Investment in resurfacing roads and fixing potholes has increased year on year since 2011/2012 to 2013/2014.

[7] Of the 143 councils that responded to the FOI, the total spend on maintaining road surfaces was £1,628,061,170 in 2013/2014. There are 434 councils and 230 said they are not responsible for road maintenance in their area, suggesting 204 are.

£1,628,061,170 divided by 143 councils that responded, gives an average of £11,385,043 per council. £11,385,043 multiplied by the number of councils responsible for road maintenance (204) is £2,322,548,772. £2,322,548,772 divided by 36,700,000 drivers = £63 per driver per year.

[8] Source: council figures. 16% of councils say they always temporarily fix potholes, the others say they either permanently fix them or carry out a combination of temporary and permanent fixing.

For further information please contact:

Vanessa Chance,, 0208 256 6996/ 07947 380074


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