Analysis uncovers how potholes are handled by councils

A large pothole in front of a level crossing

Councils have various criteria on what counts as a repairable pothole

In partnership with Channel 4’s Dispatches (Thursday, 23 May 2024)  the RAC has carried out analysis on how councils approach the repair of potholes in their areas. 

59 councils don’t publicly state their criteria for pothole repair 

There are 206 councils in Britain and 29% (59 councils) don’t have any criteria for pothole repair available online.  

Thirty-five per cent (71 councils) list specific depths, and sometimes widths, that potholes have to be before they’re considered for repair, while 37% (76 councils) say they take a risk-based approach. This means they will look at pothole reports on a case-by-case basis and choose which ones to fix based on the danger they present to the public. 

So, members of the public who report potholes may be left feeling frustrated when no action is taken, as the pothole isn’t considered big enough to warrant repairing at the time of the report. 

How big does a pothole have to be for repair? 

The most common criteria among the 35% of councils that require a specific depth for repair is 4cm (54 councils). Six of the councils require a depth of 5cm for a pothole to be considered for repair.  

Thirteen councils say that a pothole has to be at least 30cm wide (the length of an A4 piece of paper) and 4cm deep to warrant repair. 

While 29% of councils don’t have any criteria available, even the councils that operate on a risk-based approach don’t have much information available on what constitutes a pothole they’ll repair.  

Inconsistency between councils 

Councils take very different approaches to making repairs. For example, East Riding Council, which uses a risk-based approach, says it inspects all reported potholes within 24 hours and fixes the most urgent ones in the same timeframe. The process is for repairing the rest is then clearly set out.  

In contrast, Redcar and Cleveland Council does not appear to have a page on their website even referencing potholes, nor does it provide the ability for people to report them online.  

RAC concerned by lack of consistent approach 

The RAC fears the lack of a consistent approach across all 206 councils could prove dangerous to road users. They’re also concerned that the use of size-based criteria is a way for councils to delay repairing potholes. 

The RAC is calling on the government to instruct councils to use a risk-based approach when it comes to repairing potholes. It’s also asking local councils to make the following information available on their websites: 

  • The criteria for assessing reported potholes 
  • What happens after a pothole is reported 
  • A phone number for reporting potholes the public deems an emergency 

If your car has been damaged by a pothole, check out our guide on how to claim compensation for pothole damage 

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