POLITICIANS in Wrexham have hit out over the condition of the area’s pothole-ridden roads.
It follows claims that residents in the county borough are being let down by the local authority’s approach to fixing damaged road surfaces.
A report previously commissioned by Wrexham Council shows that £40m worth of investment is needed to improve the highway network.
However, officials have admitted they do not have enough money to go beyond making temporary repairs, despite an extra £1m being included in their budget for the last 12 months to address their issue.
Speaking at a virtual meeting held yesterday (Thursday, 18 February), Cllr Geoff Lowe, independent councillor for Acton, slammed the state of the roads in his community, some of which he said were “like Beirut”.
He said: “It’s a very emotive subject but it would appear that the materials we’re using are not up to the standard that perhaps they should be, and I’ve got concerns about that.
“Within 72 hours, they’re starting to fall apart again, and I think the officer commented that they were expecting it to be better than that.
“Unfortunately, in the real world, it’s not and people are suffering because of that.
“You’ve only got to come into my ward, and it looks like parts of Beirut sometimes.”
Later in the meeting, he added: “We should look at tweaks in our policy and I think that’s going to be crucial to us because as an authority, we are failing the residents of Wrexham and it needs to change.”
The number of insurance claims made against the council by drivers has increased significantly in recent years, rising from 30 during the 2016/17 financial year to 188 in 2019/20.
However, officers said the amount of claims successfully defended had also gone up to around 80 per cent as a result of prioritising repairs to potholes which pose the most risk to the public.
Members of the authority’s homes and environment scrutiny committee were told a total of 36 claims were paid out in 2019/20 at a cost of £11,644,
Rachel Penman, head of service strategy for the environment department, said the council’s approach to fixing roads was set up well for defending insurance claims.
But she acknowledged it had not led to major improvements in their overall condition.
She said: “I think we need to be realistic and refer you to the massive financial investment that would be required for us to see a significant improvement to our roads.
“They’re deteriorating faster than we can repair them and without that significant investment, that will continue to be the case.
“What we’re showing to you today is that our performance and the work that we’re doing in line with policy is improving, but I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone and say it will mean that you will drive down the road in six months’ time and there will be no issues.”
Brymbo councillor Paul Rogers asked if the council had considered trialling a new machine recently launched by construction firm JCB, which it claims can repair potholes in just eight minutes.
Chief environment officer Darren Williams said he had watched a YouTube video to see how it operates, but voiced doubts over the quoted performance time.
Meanwhile, Ceiriog Valley representative Trevor Bates questioned whether residents should be encouraged to maintain their own road surfaces.
He said: “We need to come up with some kind of alternative way of looking after them, possibly by allowing local residents to maintain them themselves.
“In fact, it’s something I’ve been doing on my road for a number of years now.
“It’s not just a problem for Wrexham, but it’s a national one.
“I urge both the UK Government and Welsh Government to look at the situation because it’s causing so much distress to residents all over the country.”
Deputy council leader David A Bithell said the Welsh Government had recently provided an extra £700,000 to improve Wrexham’s roads, but agreed councillors should lobby for more.
Committee members voted to request a further report examining potential changes to the council’s pothole repairs policy, along with details of how much it would cost.
They also asked for up-to-date figures on the cost of tackling the backlog of minor repairs in the area.
Photo credit: Antony Maybury from Wrexham