CLAIMING for pothole damage to vehicles in Gloucestershire is “like finding a needle in a haystack” as it was revealed the state of the roads was the subject of hundreds of freedom of information requests last year.

Only six out of 549 claims over potholes to Gloucestershire County Council were paid out last year according to civic chiefs.

And the topic is the most asked about issue when it comes to the number of freedom of information requests submitted to the authority.

Shire Hall received 1,702 requests for data in the last financial year. A total of 1,251 of these were freedom of information and environmental requests, most of which were about the county’s roads.

People asked for information on the numbers of potholes reported, compensation payments and repair costs along with requests for site history reports.

County Councillor Lisa Spivey (LD, South Cerney) told the corporate overview and scrutiny committee that the council seems to have quite a lot of requests around potholes and asked what was being done to bring the number down.

She said it was incredibly difficult for people to access the form needed to apply for pothole compensation.

“I note that highways are the biggest contributor of requests. All councillors here would agree the vast majority of our inboxes are filled with complaints about highways and the condition of our highways and especially potholes.

“Having looked into it myself, applying for compensation for damage to a vehicle which has occurred by hitting a pothole is incredibly difficult.

“It’s almost like finding the needle in the proverbial haystack. You can’t access the form you need to fill in at all.

“That’s an issue. We had 549 complaints and only six were paid out last year. It’s really difficult.”

She asked what actions would be taken to do something about that.

Executive director of corporate resources Rob Ayliffe said the information access teams work with services to proactively encourage publication where they see patterns of requests.

He said he hoped the new Fix My Street app which allows people to report problems such as potholes will stem the number of information requests on potholes.

“Having said that, our experience is that you just get a different type of request. The tendency is that people will just ask the next question.

“While my approach would be we should be publishing what information we’ve got. We should be as transparent as we can be. But I’m realistic and I’m not sure that ever stems the number of FOIs you get in.”

“We’ve got a highways improvement programme underway and fix my street is one of the responses to that.”

He said there are also a number of other actions being taken to improve customer service.

The County Council is investing an extra £100m in highways improvements and trialled innovative methods to improve road conditions during the summer.

They say the spray injection patching machine has speeded up pothole repairs plus Find and Fix teams have repaired over 20,000 smaller potholes ahead of schedule before they got worse. 

Eight more roads will be resurfaced this year, bringing the total to 220 roads set to be resurfaced during this financial year, with 126 already completed.

Fix My Street is available on the county council’s website and or alternatively residents can download the app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play.