Leicestershire roads are among the best in the country

Potholes along Springfield Street in Market Harborough in March.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
Potholes along Springfield Street in Market Harborough in March.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

What do you think of the state of the roads in the Harborough district?

Well, it turns out that the roads in our district, and the wider county, are among the best in the country.

Cllr Blake Pain

Cllr Blake Pain

The county’s network – a total of 2,575 miles – is the responsibility of Leicestershire County Council. The authority ranked higher than any other across three categories in the study.

The figures were collated by the Department for Transport for its 2016/17 road condition statistics report.

Results show that just one per cent of principal routes in the county, known as A roads, are in need of maintenance, two per cent of non-principal routes, known as B and C roads, need work carrying out, and nine per cent of unclassified roads are in need of repair.

The county held the same position in the Department for Transport’s 2015/16 road condition statistics report.

The Tory-run county’s lead member for highways, Councillor Blake Pain, said: “We should be very proud of this service. It’s not the first year, it’s the second in a row, so that shows a degree of consistency.”

But he warned: “The caveat to that is there’s only one way to go. We’re being transparent and completely honest about the challenges we face. Right now, this is about managing the resources we’ve got and trying to limit deterioration of our road network.”

Overall, there were no other authorities with a better network in terms of A roads.

Four authorities ranked better in terms of the percentage of repairs required to B and C roads, but all had less than 155 miles of roads to maintain. Leicestershire has almost 1,000 miles.

Several areas had non-classified roads needing fewer repairs than the county, but of those, only Cornwall has a larger network, at 2,160 miles. Leicestershire has 1,577 miles.

Despite the successes, the council’s highways department has been hit hard by cuts over recent years, and at a meeting of the environment and transport scrutiny committee, officers warned that lower funding levels would inevitably affect the roads.

Ann Carruthers, director of environment and transport at the authority, said: “If we maintained the level of highways funding we had in 2010/11 and take inflation into account, we would have had £40 million. We now have just over £20 million.”

But not everyone agrees that the county’s roads should top the poll.

Labour’s Councillor Jewel Miah, representing Loughborough East, said: “I don’t know what kind of roads Mr Pain is driving on, but not roads in Loughborough East.

“I invite him to come and spend an afternoon with me so I can show him potholes that don’t get filled and are growing, and the state of the roads.”

In response to Cllr Miah’s comments, made at a meeting of the full council, Cllr Pain advised him to report any issues to the customer services team.

An extra £8 million has been set aside for the department to work on the county’s highways network, but despite the cash injection, Ms Carruthers said there were ways in which the team was trying to maximise its efforts and make its own efficiency savings.

She said: “One example is street lighting. We’ve replaced all our street lights with LEDs and that has effectively halved our energy spend on street lights from £3.3 million to one point something million.

“By doing things like that we are helping ourselves out. It helps us on the road to maintaining that network out there with fundamentally less money than we’ve ever had before.”