£184,000 pothole repair machine bought by WNC slammed for being 'too expensive to run'

“The classic case of buying the car and not being able to afford to run it.”
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A £184,000 pothole repair machine bought by the council has been described as ‘the classic case of buying the car and not being able to afford to run it’.

The comment was made by Independent councillor Ian McCord about West Northants Council’s (WNC) JCB Pothole Pro it bought last year.

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At a full council meeting on February 22, councillor McCord tabled an amendment to the council’s budget regarding highways maintenance, potholes and pavements.

Councillor Larratt (left). JCB Pothole Pro (main).Councillor Larratt (left). JCB Pothole Pro (main).
Councillor Larratt (left). JCB Pothole Pro (main).

He said: “I picked up an almost throwaway comment at another meeting that there was potentially a £1.9million reduction in the funding for highways maintenance in the incoming year and, at present, the JCB pothole machine could not run to its full potential because it consumed material at a faster rate than the budget allowed for. The classic case of buying the car and not being able to afford to run it.”

Councillor McCord continued: “Our roads are in a poor state. The current policy is the orderly management of decline. We must not allow that decline to be accelerated by reducing funding further. We have a machine that can make a difference but we restrict its performance because of budget issues. We need to unleash that equipment to do the job it was bought for.”

Independent councillor Paul Clark added: “We have a shiny new JCB machine that will help us repair potholes. Because it’s so fast and efficient, we can’t afford to run it on full capacity. There’s not enough budget to make it run at full power. So when we don’t need the machine, could we rent it out to other councils on the days we park it up? Which may get this council some cash.”

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Responding, councillor Phil Larratt, in charge of highways at WNC, said: “I am aware that there is a problem with the workforce keeping up with the pothole pro and as a consequence of that, Kier are investing in a further bit of equipment that follows it around and relays the surface and that will improve the whole process ongoing. That has been the difficulty.

"I agree that our roads are not in the best of states, more recently with the bad weather and the cold weather in particular before Christmas. [But] we are doing a far better job with the quality of repair.”

This newspaper asked WNC if the pothole pro was an expensive mistake. Councillor Larratt responded, saying: “The JCB Pothole Pro travels at a faster speed than other machines, provide a more efficient service and enabling WNC to cut the defect, crop the edges and clean and repair potholes to an improved quality. We have identified areas that could work better with the new machinery, and are in the process of incorporating this into our planning when assessing areas in future.”

Just after WNC bought the pothole pro in December, councillor Larratt said: "We’re delighted to have invested in this ground-breaking technology, which will help achieve the council’s strategy to deliver prompt and lasting pothole repairs. This offers us a new and innovative way to improve the speed with which we can address road surface issues, and we look forward to seeing this in action across West Northamptonshire in the coming months."

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The pothole pro was used on a country road in Harpole just before Christmas. Harpole Parish Council recently said: "Filling of potholes done recently is already breaking up as there is no proper edging and tarmac is being laid on grass."