Reporting, again, a pothole on Kingsley Street for repair made me realise what austerity actually means for most people: and it’s not that much.
I’d previously reported it at the beginning of June, but three months later the pothole remains, not massive, but still needing repair. It’s a sharp contrast from the level of response I’d previously had; when a pothole could be fixed in a day.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why the comparison may be unfair and the response times different. The example in 2010 was just before the national and local elections when more effort was put in and I was still in the Conservative group (the post was even copied across to the party website) while in 2015 paperwork may have gone awry or it might just not be seen as big enough.
Fundamentally though, the council just doesn’t have as much money as it once did: 2010 is very different to 2015. It cannot afford the resources to respond rapidly or on the same level as it once did.
But is this that big an issue? Possibly not. It brought to mind the concept of hedonic adaptation, that whatever changes—good or bad—impact on a person, they soon return to about the same level of happiness they experienced before.
I wonder if that is what is happening in the UK: things aren’t as good as they were, but expectations are changing. People will occasionally vaguely recall that things used to be better, but doesn’t everyone believe that the past was a golden age?
Is it really the case that, other than those directly affected because of cuts in public services, the only ones that care or notice are people like me with an unhealthy obsession with reporting street defects? If so, historians and sociologists of the future may well find themselves studying how austerity in the twenty-first century led to little more than an increase in mild swearing when people tripped on uneven pavements.
The roads have been a big issue recently. There’s no getting away from it, the two cold snaps earlier this year (along with last year’s cold weather) have taken their toll.
The council’s teams have been out systematically repairing the borough’s roads and evidence of their work is visible across the ward; take a look at Lavender Hill, for example, which has seen extensive repair work.
But it’s worth repeating that you don’t have to wait for the council to see the problem and repair it. If you know of any potholes let the council know (you can report them at wandsworth.gov.uk/streets).
To show how it works I noticed and reported the pothole on the left while campaigning in Sugden Road one night. By 10am the following morning it had been inspected to assess the repair needed and by the afternoon it had been repaired. Not all repairs can be completed in 24 hours, but we always try and get to them as quickly as possible.
The state of the roads has been a big concern for everyone, and not just in Wandsworth – following the two cold snaps earlier this year roads across the country developed faults. One of the chief problems is that we have to wait until the cold weather has gone before repairs can start; there’s no point wasting time and money repairing a hole in January when another freeze is a few weeks away and will undo all the work.
The council is now systematically inspecting and repairing all the roads in the borough and this week is Shaftesbury’s turn. Hopefully in a few more days all the potholes in the ward will have been fixed. Additionally, one road, Theatre Street has been totally resurfaced because the surface was beyond patching.
The cause of the problems are largely beyond the council’s control. Obviously the weather plays the biggest part, but often the problems occur because water has been able to penetrate and freeze at the joins where utility companies have been digging up the road. Certainly in the case of Theatre Street I seem to regularly report water leaks, and cannot help but speculate that leaky pipes under the surface have played their part in the break up of the road.
It is not without hypocrisy that I point you towards Glum Councillors – a collection of hard-working councillors working hard at pointing out potholes. I confess I was impressed by the care taken by some in donning high-visibility clothing before venturing onto the road.
The ‘councillors points at pothole’ is a classic, and seems to be something of a Lib Dem favourite. Some cynically suggest they even get lists of work programmes from their local councils to take photos just before they are repaired. But however it’s done, you can’t deny it presents a, um, memorable image.
I don’t think I’ve ever pointed at a pothole, but I’m sure I’ve committed other councillor photography sins (I’ve certainly watched a phone box being removed, and recently stood on the side of a road before a new safety scheme was installed). My favourite, however, is the one featured here…
We’d managed to get a fairly grubby patch of land on Falcon Lane (the road that runs between Lavender Hill and Falcon Road past Asda) cleaned up. And what better way to celebrate this than have three men stand on the now clear patch of mud. In front of an ‘Out of Service’ bus.
Oh, and what’s the in the background. That ad on the side of the bus passing on Lavender Hill. Yes, a man in a nappy, that will really sum up the joy we feel about the cleanup.
(Incidentally, I recall the ad on the bus was for a TV channel or show, the concept being that you wouldn’t want to miss a second, so you’d wear a nappy. I did try and find out and did a Google for ‘man in nappy advert’. I wouldn’t recommend you try it.)
The council is currently undertaking a thorough inspection of the borough’s roads. You may have noticed the condition of some roads has significantly deteriorated. This is largely down to the severe weather we suffered all the way back in February.
You might think this was a long time ago, but in some cases the effects are only just starting to be noticed.
Essentially, the weather weakened the road surface by weakening the bond between the road’s constituent parts. The extent of this damage varied from road to road – some roads were more sheltered so suffered less, others, where the surface was already coming towards the end of its natural life-span were damaged more.
The time is took for this damage to become apparent also varies, roads that only have light traffic may still appear to be in fine condition while those that get heavy traffic broke down much more quickly.
The council is systematically inspecting each road over a period of around three months. Where it is possible repairs are patched (and the council can do this fairly quickly). Where the damage is more severe the entire road has to be resurfaced. In Shaftesbury Ward Thirsk Road is currently being totally resurfaced.
If you know of any potholes you can report them to the council. Repairs can normally be carried out fairly promptly. Faults can be reported online at wandsworth.gov.uk/streets. Faults on Transport for London roads (usually identifed by the red lines on the sides) cannot be repaired by the council, but can be reported via the TfL roadworks and street faults page.