I have maintained for many years that many counties in the country use inferior tarmac for the roads. Just go over the border of Northants into Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, even Bedfordshire and you'll notice an almost instantaneous change in the noise your car makes. Quite simply it's like going from rough to smooth. Therefore, I have to ascertain that Northants uses a far inferior grade of road covering material than the counties around us.
I actually live on a road that has just one, small, pot hole; therefore I am one of the few lucky people in the town. This is, of course, fine, if I just want to travel from one end of Fullingdale Road to the other; but once you get out on the Headlands or Broadway East, then you start to realise the extent of the scarring on our roads.
The uplifting thing about the last week has been the number of workman I've seen out on the roads, filling in the holes. But I can't help thinking of that saying 'covering a bullet wound with a band aid', because what we're seeing is not resurfacing of roads, but haphazard filling of only the worst holes. This not only leaves the other holes to increase in size through constant use and weathering, but the quality of the repairs is laughably inadequate. I watched four council contractors literally just chucking a shovel's worth of loose tarmac into a pothole and then moving onto the next one, leaving the traffic's wheels to flatten it down. I'm pretty sure there is no scientific evidence to prove that the wheels of your car are better at laying tarmac than one of those little steam roller contraptions.
There is so little care and attention paid to the roads that these repairs will only last until the next hard winter hits us - that's if this hard winter has really finished, or is just lulling us into a false sense of security before it hits us with one last Siberian blast (it is only March, after all). Once the water gets under the cracks and the temperature drops, all of these repairs will just go the way of the original road.
The upshot is that Byron Street in Kingsley, possibly one of the most atrocious driving surfaces I've ever seen, has been completely resurfaced. The locals must be breathing sighs of relief and counting the pennies they're going to save from not having to visit the garage or even the osteopath to have their spines realigned!
Talking to a lady who works for Leicestershire County Council last week, it seems common knowledge that our council is both £8million in the red and in need of at least £8million to properly rebuild our road infrastructure. "I heard your roads are really awful?" She said and I seriously wondered if this was a new revelation or she was just repeating something I'd known since the day The Sun ran in a front cover story in the 1980s stating that Northants had the worst roads in the country.
I do on average about 500 work miles a month throughout the county and even in a car with good suspension some of the routes would make viable alternatives to a day at Alton Towers. As Patrick Barham's story at the top of this suggests, road improvement really is going to be low on the agendas of local councils for the foreseeable future. Personally, I'd like to see some middle and upper management removals to partly fund a ten year plans to relay all the seriously bad roads in the towns, with good quality materials and using workmen who have some pride in their job. They could start by doing Ivy and Holly Roads; if ever there was evidence of running repairs it's these two streets.
What would you prefer; better roads or unnecessary council employee's whose sole responsibility is to create more justifying exercises for lesser employees to do, to prove their worth, rather than doing the jobs they are paid for?