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Drive more carefully? How about fixing the roads?!

Dismayed does not quite sum up my feelings about the comments made by Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, in response to an enquiry made by a motorist whose tyre had been damaged due to a pothole. After emailing Sir Richard to chase this up, Jonathan Symms was met with a frankly shocking response that people should drive more carefully!

The story was reported in the Manchester Evening News here: 

When interviewed by the MEN in relation to this story, Sir Richard commented “…my view is that the Council should not be liable to claims of this sort as they take money away from Council services, including those that fix highway defects." Later he ‘accepted’ that the Council was “obliged to consider compensation claims.”

Well here’s news for you Richard, you’ve well and truly missed the point. This isn’t about paying compensation – it’s about the Council doing what they are supposed to do. The Council has a positive duty to maintain the highways – section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 makes that very clear. If the Council did this, there would be no need for road users (including taxpayers!) like Mr Symms to have to do this in the first place.

The state of the roads in Manchester is disgraceful at the moment. As one who travels frequently along the A34 at Parrs Wood, it is impossible to avoid the numerous craters in the road surface. It’s certainly not possible to drive at the 40mph speed limit without sustaining some form of injury and without sustaining significant vehicle damage.

For cyclists the problem is even worse. Unlike drivers, a cyclist coming across a pothole cannot simply go through it, as that is likely to result in the rider being forcibly thrown off and injured, possibly seriously. But cyclists cannot just ride swerve around either, in case they find themselves in the path of following traffic.

A freedom of information request made to the Council showed that they had had to pay out compensation in 2017/2018 on 124 occasions. The year before that number was 79. Who knows what that total will be in 2018/19?  

As an aside I also note Sir Richard’s comments about the “‘large number of fraudulent claims” – again he provides no foundation, basis or context for this comment. If the Council encounter what they believe is a fraudulent claim then the legal tools exist to allow them to fight those cases. It would be interesting to know though how many claims that the Council have received have turned out to be proven (rather than just suspected) not to be genuine.  

Perhaps Sir Richard could invest in research into floating cars, that would solve the problem? Until then, he should keep his ill-informed and misconceived opinions to himself.

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