Bumpy roads across Scotland tell the real story of maintenance spending cut by a fifth – UNISON

Date: Fri 17 May 2013

UNISON Scotland response to Accounts Commission report on audit update on roads maintenance:

UNISON said today that the key point to emerge from the report is the scale of the cut in expenditure on roads maintenance – down by 21 per cent.*

Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said that the public will be scathing about the report concluding that road conditions have remained largely the same in the last two years. Indeed, it concedes that the proportion of acceptable roads is lower than in 2005.

The public services union, which represents staff involved in planning, road maintenance and land services, also warned that some councils are planning for up to 50 years use on road surfaces designed originally to last 15 years.

Dave said: “The fact is, if you cut spending by one fifth, the only way you can maintain the illusion of maintaining standards is by patch and mend.

“Potholes are being patched rather than surfaces being replaced. Any cyclist, let alone motorist can feel the difference.”

He highlighted the following points in the report:

  • council payments to compensate drivers for pothole damage have risen, from around £340,000 in 2007/08 to £1.2 million in 2011/12
  • Forty-five per cent of local roads users in Scotland consider roads condition to be poor, very poor or terrible, the worst rate in the UK.
  • Scotland is perceived to have more potholes per mile than any other region in the UK, and more worn or faded roads markings.
  • Drivers in Scotland are more likely to report pothole damage, with 44 per cent saying their cars had been damaged at some point over the last two years.

Dave added: “Any new formats for roads asset management plans, or calls for more or different data on the roads – or indeed if any proposals emerge for structural change – is just tinkering around the edges. It is the scale of the cutbacks which is the issue and people can see and feel the bumpy roads on a daily basis.”

Chris Stephens, UNISON’s Land and Environmental Services convenor, said: “Road surfaces are designed to last 15 years. However, in many councils this is being stretched to 50 years.

“If local roads were funded to the level of trunk roads we would of course see significant improvement.”


“The percentage of local roads in acceptable condition has increased marginally from 66.1 to 66.7 per cent over the last two years, despite a reduction in roads maintenance spending from £492 million in 2009/10 to around £400 million in 2010/11 (a 21 per cent reduction in real terms).”

For information please contact:
Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, 07958 122 409
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, 07508 877 000

Notes to editors:

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland, including staff at all 32 local authorities..