It used to be that individuals in need of money would go to their local councils and apply for benefits for housing and Council Tax. Now the trend is starting to reverse and poor cash strapped councils are relying on their residents to fix their own roads. Don’t believe us? Just read these stories.
Residents fix roads
Devon County Council slashed the budget for highways works leaving verges uncut and minor potholes unrepaired. The council sent out an SOS for volunteers. Over a hundred residents responded by taking action into their own hands. They are cutting the grass, clearing litter and filling in the small potholes themselves. The Council see the volunteers as possibly replacing up to a fifth of its highway workforce. Devon does have the largest highway network in Britain and the county council spends £1 billion each year to maintain 8,000 miles of roads. Officials believe that cutting the highway jobs could save just over a quarter of a million pounds.
While some people enjoy volunteering there are others who are outraged by this. Hugh Bladon, a spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers, said that asking volunteers to carry out pothole repairs was “plainly absurd”. He added: "We're paying nearly £60bn in motoring taxes and if that's not enough for them to do their job then maybe we shouldn't pay them at all.” He said. "Councils all over the country are spending too much money painting lines all over the place rather than filling in the holes in the road.” We totally agree with that comment!
A group of residents in Tiverton became fed up of potholes damaging their cars and making the road look awful. Collipriest Lane had originally been built for horses and carriages but heavy use by cars and other vehicles has taken its toll on the road. Privately owned by trustees the residents and South West Water who have a sewage treatment plant nearby have usually joined together to repair the road surface. As the road is privately owned Devon Country Council is not obliged to repair it. Bet they are relieved about that! However, South West Water (SWW) are no longer contributing to the road's maintenance and so it is left entirely up to the residents. So 16 households each donated £10 to purchase the asphalt to mend the roads. They are not very happy about this as they believe that SWW should also contribute to the cost as they claim that their 25 and 42 tonne trucks which regularly use the plant are causing the damage to the road surface. Negotiations between the residents and SWW broke down and so the residents are now solely responsible. It is a bit of a cheek that SWW's vehicles are a major cause of the damage to the road yet they are not willing to pay for the repairs at all.
After a year long dispute with the local council over repairing potholes outside their houses a group of six homeowners with an average age of 75 filled the holes in themselves. The road in question, Crawshaw Gardens is 100 metres and had 100 potholes, some as wide as 6 feet. Leeds City Council refused to do the repairs as they claimed that the road is private and unadopted, meaning that the council doesn’t own the road and isn’t responsible for repairs. So the pensioners ordered some tarmac and did the job themselves.
One of the pensioners, David Horn, 77, said: "We decided enough is enough. There has been much discussion with Leeds City Council over the years and although it is an unadopted road, we feel they could help us out. There are 14 houses here and we all pay council tax. It seems ridiculous that we have to pay for our own road repairs too. Over the years we have repaired numerous holes several times." Some residents believe that this is wrong as they pay their council tax for road repairs too.
Residents in Orchard Close, Longford in Gloucestershire may have to pay thousands to get their private road’s potholes fixed. The residents in Orchard Close collectively own the road and so the maintenance and repairs to the road surface are their responsibility. They have been told that it cost up to £8,000 to repair the worst potholes and that it would cost a whopping £200,000 to get the road completely renovated so Gloucestershire County Council can adopt it.
Local residents are furious and feel that it is very unfair. They want the council to fill in the worst potholes. City councillor for Kingsholm and Wotton, Sebastian Field, said: “I don’t think residents should have to repair it. It’s a public safety issue that should be dealt with. The residents can’t afford to get the street adopted so it’s just going to get worse and worse.” Sally Godwin, local highways manager at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “Orchard Close in Longford is a privately owned road and not one that the county council is responsible for. However, we’re happy to work with the residents and help them find the most cost effective solution.” If you move house you don’t really think about if the road is private or not and if it is what the consequences of that could be. It’s certainly something to think about if you plan to move.
It’s not just this side of the pond either. In Hamtramck in Michigan a group of friends complained that they were fed up of the town’s potholes. Hamtramck was reputed to be the worst in the region for potholes, one was allegedly 5 feet long. So on the next Saturday they went off, bought 17 bags of cold patch and got hold of some handheld packing tools and went to Lumpkin Street and got to work filling in the holes. They ran out of material and there were still holes to be filled so the pals bought more cold patch bags and plan to keep going. The media found out and the friends found that they had become local stars and encouraged other locals to join in and help. Donations to the group’s ‘Hamtramck Guerrilla Road Repair’ funding page have flooded in to pay for more cold patch bags. The local mayor is full of praise for the guys and stated that their actions reflected their affection and commitment to the town.
This attitude says a lot about the difference between us and Americans. In the UK we pay our taxes and expect the government and councils to fulfil all our civic needs. The first suggestion that we should get off our backsides and do it ourselves provokes outrage. Surely if we are paying for a service we shouldn’t have to be doing it ourselves. You wouldn’t pay the dentist and expect to extract your own tooth or do a filling yourself? But our friends over on the other side of the Atlantic are real get up and goers. What do you think about this? How would you react if your council asked you to volunteer to repair potholes in your road?