Business Eye: Potholes have cost me alone £1,000 – just think what they’re costing the Bucks economy...

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

It used to be that the main topic of polite conversation at dinner parties would be the cost of housing, Ryanair’s customer disdain, or the weather but these days the most common gripe is the horrific state of our roads.

We once looked down on our French and Spanish hosts when on holiday because their roads were riven with moon-craters called potholes, quaint aspects of the road transport system that we had not experienced since the war and that no decent wealthy country like Britain lived with anymore.

Potholes were for struggling Caribbean islands, the Sudan and the poor Frenchies.

These days the tide has well and truly turned. In the past year alone I’ve been through over £1,000 of pothole damaged tyres myself just driving to and from the office, and any journey from A to B on a bicyle, even on some main roads requires careful navigation to avoid the risk of losing a wheel.

My own tiny village has recently put a petition in to the Highways Authority demanding that they fulfil their basic obligation to maintain the road surface to an acceptably safe standard. But standards are not what they once were.

Today they are more governed by what we can afford than what we need.

This is not only a local problem but is a national disaster. I notice for instance that the historic brass band of Hartland in Devon had to scrap its annual procession for the first time in 50 years because the players were in fear of stumbling on the badly- pitted potholed roads.

That said, a recent visiting delegation from other parts of the country with whom I met recently, when asked what distinguished us commented that they had never seen roads this bad in England. So we do have it particularly worse here than some other places.

It would be easy to blame Bucks County Council, but the council has over-prioritised spend on repairing our roads during the last few years, using up its reserves and the coffers are now dry.

The real problem is that while northern Spain and Scotland benefit from our largesse and huge grants, the Bucks working goose that lays so many golden economic eggs is not being maintained.

If we want improved roads we need to ask our MPs to forcefully support our call for help to make sure the taxpayers of Buckinghamshire are given the basic transport means so essential to economic growth and productivity.