Potholes on UK Roads

Uncovering the UK areas with the most potholes

And which councils spend the most on road maintenance?

The quality of the roads we drive on can have a big impact on our vehicle.

Potholes can make driving a stressful experience and even cause breakdowns. With millions of potholes reported in the UK every year, we thought we’d find out which areas suffer the most from the pothole problem.

  • From April 2018 to June 2021, over 180,000 potholes have been reported in Northumberland.1
  • Only 3% of pothole damage claims submitted to Glasgow council have been compensated (over 3000 have been submitted).
  • Out of the English and Welsh councils looked at, Liverpool invested the most in road maintenance, spending just under £250 million between April 2018 and March 2021.2

    The AA sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to local councils across the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and analysed data on road maintenance expenditure to find out more about the state of UK roads.

In this article

Which areas of the UK have the most potholes?

From April 2018 to June 2021, there were over 1.5 million potholes on local roads reported to the 51 UK councils we spoke to. The total number is likely to be much higher than that due to this figure not including potholes on motorways and major roads, and many being unreported.

Northumberland had the greatest number of reported potholes during this time, with over 180,000. The table below highlights the areas with the greatest number of potholes reported and how many were repaired during this time.

As expected, larger council areas experience greater volumes of reported potholes than smaller ones.

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Areas with greatest number of reported potholes
Council Potholes reported April 2018 to June 2021 Potholes repaired April 2018 to June 2021
Northumberland 180,993 175,357
Cornwall 88,129 87,981
Kirklees 77,552 165,532*
Newry, Mourne and Down 62,820 52,006
Fife 57,051 55,617
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon 54,320 48,292
Newcastle upon Tyne 53,767 52,179
Liverpool 45,224 41,135
Suffolk 42,174 38,548
Glasgow 38,100 34,592

*In some cases, councils had repaired a greater number of potholes than the the total number reported. This is due to the time periods during which this data refers to and the way the data is recorded.

For example, a pothole may be reported in one financial year and then repaired in another. Also, the reported figure might only include numbers reported by the public, while the total number repaired will include those identified by council road inspectors.

The table below shows the councils with the greatest volume of repaired potholes during this timeframe.

Council Potholes repaired April 2018 to June 2021 Potholes reported April 2018 to June 2021
Northumberland 175,357 180,993
Kirklees 165,532 77,552
West Northamptonshire 107,700 15,154
East Riding of Yorkshire 101,649 9,568
Herefordshire 97,728 12,667
Edinburgh 95,681 23,892
Cornwall 87,981 88,129
Rotherham 71,625 2,036
Cheshire East 57,796 35,346
Newcastle upon Tyne 52,179 53,767

In areas where there are far greater numbers of repaired potholes than reported potholes, this could point to members of the public not being aware of how best to report a pothole to the local authority.

Learn how to report potholes.

How many pothole damage claims are submitted in the UK?

Potholes can cause damage to vehicles - if you hit one you might be entitled to claim compensation due to pothole damage from your local council.

However, compensation is only available for potholes where it was reported and not fixed within the council’s set timescales or they decided it could be repaired at a later date.

We asked councils from across the UK how many claims they received between April 2018 and June 2021, and how many have been compensated.

A total of 43,947 pothole damage claims were made to the councils in this time. But only 13,187 claims have been compensated during the same period (less than a third).

There were over 3,000 claims made to English councils, over 7,000 made to Scottish councils, over 1,000 made to Welsh councils and over 2,000 made to Northern Irish councils.

Glasgow has experienced the greatest volume of pothole damage claims during this time, but has compensated just over 3% of these.

The table below shows the areas with the most claims made in this time period.

Council Claims received from April 2018 to June 2021 Claims compensated from April 2018 to June 2021
Glasgow 3,678 121
Shropshire 2,246 770
Cheshire East 2,200 159
Manchester 1,565 675
Wiltshire 1,484 731
West Northamptonshire 1,445 282
Suffolk 1,308 1,538*
Newry, Mourne and Down 1,276 1,076
Northumberland 1,174 518
Fife 1,160 122

*Some claims may be submitted in one financial year and compensated in another, which can result in a higher volume of compensated claims than the total number of claims received.

Glasgow has experienced the greatest volume of pothole damage claims during this time, but has compensated just over 3%.

Which councils spend the most and least on road maintenance?

It’s also important to investigate how much local authorities are investing in their roads. In survey conducted in October 2021, 94% of drivers said that the Autumn Budget needed to heavily invest in fixing local roads.3

The councils in England and Wales* that have spent the most on road maintenance from April 2018 to March 2021 are:

  • Liverpool – £243,919,000
  • Birmingham – £240,866,000
  • Cornwall – £217,368,000
  • Cheshire East – £216,452,000
  • Manchester – £173,979,000

The councils that spent the least amount on road maintenance were:

  • Greenwich – £16,712,000
  • Barking and Dagenham – £19,152,000
  • Hounslow – £20,035,000
  • Islington – £20,409,000
  • Tameside – £25,835,000

Unsurprisingly larger council areas like Liverpool and Birmingham invest more in road maintenance than smaller council areas, given the larger number of roads within those areas.

*This data was not available by individual local authority for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Advice on driving and potholes

If you’re driving on a road with potholes there are some ways you can try to stay safe and avoid damage to your vehicle:

  1. Maintain plenty of distance from any vehicles in front of you. They may swerve or brake suddenly to avoid a pothole, and this also allows you to have good visibility of the road condition.
  2. If you can see you’re approaching a pothole, try to slow down and steer away from it to avoid driving over it and potentially causing damage to your car.
  3. Be particularly cautious of cyclists who need to take extra care around potholes and may therefore need to move away from the kerb and into the road to steer clear of them.

It’s difficult to avoid potholes completely when driving in the UK. So make sure you know what to do if you break down due to a pothole, and how to change a flat tyre.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “Potholes are a frustration to all drivers and are a blight on our roads.

“While they are annoying for car drivers, potholes can be fatal to those on two wheels. As the government seeks to encourage more active travel, walking out to a moon-like surface won’t install confidence to would-be cyclists.

“For too long, both central and local governments blame each other for the lack of funding in maintaining our road surfaces. It’s time both got round the table and heavily invested in smoother, safer streets.”

If you break down, we’ll get you back on the road.

Published: 1 June 2022 | Updated: 1 June 2022 | Author: The AA

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