The Great Pothole Debacle; Are Wiltshire Councillors Teleported into County Hall?!

As a younger chap, for it once was so, I’d procrastinate with the washing-up, putting it off until the point I’d run out of cutlery or crockery. By this time the daunting task of tackling the mountain was too much to bear. Not forgoing, I’d be suspicious organic matter in the sink could’ve evolved into a dispassionate and sadistic varmint which would, acting in defence of its dwelling, ambush my digits, and marigolds would make unless armour.

In maturity I’ve learned engaging proactive to chores will prevent such issues from building to an uncontrollable catastrophe, but remain convinced, by driving on any road in the county, Wiltshire Council hasn’t yet reached such maturity. Their dithering, wilful ignorance of Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, has spawned an infestation of intractable and accrescent critters: potholes, and they breed like rabbits.

Agreed, like a birdwatcher finding a rare Capercaillie, I’ve seen council workers patching up the deadliest potholes of recent, here and there, but take The Kings Road, Easterton, for example, which for a while now I’ve renamed the Kamikazes Road, for my own personal white-knuckled amusement. Here, over the past week, they’ve shoved some hardcore in the odd pothole which has occupied the road for an insurmountable eon, ticked it off as a job well done, and returned to base for tea and custard creams. The equivalent of which in my washing-up metaphor would be to rinse a teaspoon I found rotting behind the fridge under the cold tap.

Of course, Cabinet Member for Transport, Dr Mark McClelland has waffled this axiomatic piffle on the council’s website, “The weather has provided the perfect conditions for potholes to form, and that’s why we’re seeing an increase in the number of road defects throughout the county.”

Akin to a football manger telling the presenter, “It’s a game of two halves,” tell us something we don’t know, like perhaps coupled with Dr McClelland’s valid point is also the unmentioned minor technicality they failed dismally to repair potholes for the last two previous years, minimum. Yeah, the increase of road defects is caused by bad weather, I’ll give him, but bad management too. Like my washing-up, if you don’t address the issue promptly, we see potholes on potholes on potholes, on, well, you get the picture; it’s of a lunar landscape, and you’re cycling one of those old Boneshaker bicycles over it.

Potholes are so rife in Wiltshire; people have started using them to give directions. “Oh-argh, go down road for six potholes, past the pensioners playing street golf, you’ll see a really massive pothole, not the one where Kate Winslet is grasping driftwood crying over drowning Leonardo DiCaprio, but a much deeper one, turn right there and it’s just past the third pothole on the left!”

Okay, you roll your thunder; cease the satirical ranting and tell us what we can do about it, I hear your cry. Here’s the longwinded Wiltshire Councillor Dr McBellend again, with the official advice: “Wiltshire Council has an online reporting system called MyWilts that people can use to report problems on the council’s roads and footways. This can be either accessed by computer or an app downloaded from the relevant app store. Reports received from MyWilts are processed accordingly and customers updated through the Council’s reporting and management systems.”

Like everything these days, from parking your car to ordering at Nandos, you must go to a website, download an app, create an account, and customise yourself to the inner-workings of the profiteering geek mate of the council who invented it.

According to the Wiltshire Highways Safety Inspection Manual, depending on priority and road size, it can take anything up to 60 days for them to address the issue, which, based on past experience, seems to be to send a team out to inspect, possibly spray paint a colourful circle around it, or in severe cases stick a traffic cone in it, return to base to file the report and grab some tea and custard creams. By which time umpteen drivers have lost a wheel in the pothole you’re attempting to inform them about.

Technophobes are shit out. I like to think I’m savvy, but it took me little under an hour to make head nor tail of the app, and report a SINGLE road defect, when the county is awash with them, on every single road, multitudes of them, potholes on potholes, remember? How much spare time do they think we have?

One has to wonder how Councillors get to county hall. Are they blindfolded? Are they teleported in like Captain Kirk? How come they cannot see what we see? Oh yeah, the gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor brigade, I forgot; why don’t we all just save up and buy ourselves a 4×4, goes the pig-ignorant Conservative thinktank. Because we’re scrapping the barrel to put food on the table due to their general incompetence of a thousand other issues I could rant a tangent on, that’s why, and we really don’t need the added expense of avoidable car repairs.

Oh, but, oh, what’s that you say? You can reclaim expenses from Wiltshire Council if your vehicle is damaged due to potholes? Yes, I hear that, and after months of paperwork there’s been some success stories; ninety days is the legal maximum allowed, they will take advantage of that while your kids go hungry.

Provided you take a multitude of photos and videos of the damage, the questionable pothole with a tape measure or sonic deep-sea echo sounder, and its surroundings, provide indisputable evidence it was said pothole, add some interesting history about any neighbouring landmarks, and possibly bribe them with proper posh Waitrose biscuits rather than working class custard creams, you can retrieve some but rarely all your costs, should you suffer an incident there and then. But what of the gradual wear and tear of our cars on our daily journeys across this scabrous terrain of endless bottomless chasms? These surely are both insurmountable and incalculable, and what’s more, impossible to prove. I quizzed a local mechanic.

Coils, springs and other such technical bits and bobs are forever being replaced at his garage, he informed me, and was undoubtedly convinced it was due to the constant driving through potholes. He extended it to suggest driving in France wouldn’t cause these problems; whoa, controversial!

Now, I’m sorry for my rude alteration of the councillor’s name, if you noted it, and if I could take it back I would, but I’ve said it now and it’s out there; just a typo really. I’m aware Tories can be touchy when pointing out their incompetence and hypocrisy, and often act like a told-off toddler, but name-calling is simply not cricket. I’m aware it’s a tricky issue and perpetual, but you did sign up for the job, so, no temper tantrums, let’s be logical here; the app is a get out clause for the council, if it’s not reported there it’s as mythical as unicorns.

For I made the gag out of frustration, not so much for the crumbs of pasty I lose while driving the milk float over these bumps, for I’m not so petty to calculate and invoice the council for a six pack of Ginsters, but for the pothole so deep it shattered my window, covering me in shards and leaving me in need of a change of underwear, for the repair of my car’s wheel balance, tyres, for the fact that although I drove over the window-shattering pothole carefully for the next month or so, and it was finally repaired, to note the other six or seven potholes surrounding that one wasn’t, and they’ve equalled it now in deepness. It’s a never-ending problem, I accept this, but for crying out loud, be the hero who finds a doable solution, and I can eat my words rather than have to mince them.

I’m aware we’ve bricked ourselves into this asylum the lunatics have taken over and that’s democracy, but if they’ve found a workable solution on the continent, are we too proud to pinch their strategies? Opps, grey area, fetch my blue pissport and I’ll shut the door behind me.

No good waffling figures to me about how much the council have spent on infrastructure, while I gaze at the new digital road sign in Worton, which flashes up the driver’s speed with a happy or sad face emoji, when one car I witnessed this week clocked 72mph and didn’t fuss to slow past the school gates through that 30mph zone. And, pray tell, how much did it cost to install it, compared to the revenue it’ll provide? It’s not how much you’ve got but what you do with it.

While it may well slow the considerate fella who’s accidentally slipped into 33mph, no emoji is going to cause these thoughtless potential murderers to take caution, but a copper with a speed camera offering a huge fine and lifetime driving ban might. That’d raise some pennies for tarmac, and reduce traffic as well as encouraging lorries to use the motorway and not shortcut through towns and villages; blimey I’m full of radical notions this morning; give the man a Twix.

But failing any of them, councillor, take a pay cut, live like the rest of us sufferers, avoid expensive luncheons, buy bargain custard creams for county hall’s biscuit barrel, or pick up a shovel, get your Fairy-Liquid-kind hands dirty for once in your sad little life and fill the potholes in yourself! Or do they keep potholes as it’s symbolic of where this country is heading?

Who can say for certain?

I can, “for certain,” there you go, job a good ‘un, shame the same can’t be said for Wiltshire Council’s road policy!


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