Public satisfaction with the state of Shropshire’s highways is dismally low with an approval rating of just 40%. The roads for which Shropshire Council is responsible have not improved overall since the council was established in 2009 and minor roads have got worse. The budget for highways is half the level of 15 years ago in real terms. And don’t mention the potholes and nearly impassable roads.

The plague of potholes around the county is the most obvious symbol of the decline in our local council services. The condition of many road surfaces is very poor. This is not just true of many country lanes, but also urban roads. In Ludlow, Gravel Hill and the south end of Parys Road are in appalling state.

The public in Shropshire is not satisfied with the state of roads. In October 2016, Shropshire Council set a target of achieving 54% public satisfaction with the state of the roads by 2021. Two years after that target, satisfaction stands at just 40%. That’s because the overall condition of roads has not improved since Shropshire Council replaced Shropshire County Council in 2009. Poor performance of contractors is part of the problem, as is the dwindling budget for highways. Some of the blame must also be placed with council leaders who have never got to grips with the problems on the county’s highways.

The dire state of many of our roads is too often blamed by the council on weather. There have been severe events. The Beast from the East. Flooding. But wet and cold winters are no excuse for roads falling apart as they are normal in our part of the country.

This article uses to government data to look at how well Shropshire Council is performing on maintain roads in the county. It is the first of a series of articles on The State of Shropshire.

In 2023, Shropshire Council was ranked 13th from bottom among all the 119 highways authorities in England for maintenance of A roads in 2022/23. Even more telling, it is the worst performer among similar rural authorities. Its performance on maintain B & C roads is even worse, ranking sixth among all highways authorities in 2021/22.

The plot shows how Shropshire performs in comparison to similar rural authorities [1]

Shropshire Council has never got on top of highways maintenance. The overall state of roads has not improved since the council was established in 2009 and classified roads (A, B & C) have got worse in the last few years.

The statistics below are drawn from Shropshire Council submissions to the Department for Transport [2]:

A roads (2022/23): [3]

  • 13% needed surface maintenance
  • 66% needed investigation to see if they require maintenance
  • 20% were in generally good condition.

B & C roads (2021/22): [4]

  • 14% need surface maintenance
  • 21% needed investigation to see if they require maintenance
  • 66% were in generally good condition.

Public satisfaction [5]

Satisfaction with Shropshire’s highways is falling, down 5% between 2022 and 2023, reversing an improvement the year before. In 2016, satisfaction with highways and transport in Shropshire stood at 55%. The council cabinet set a performance indicator of maintaining satisfaction at 54% by 2021. This target seems to have quietly been forgotten. I can’t find data for 2021 but by 2023 satisfaction had dropped to 40%.  

Contractors

There are a number of reasons Shropshire Council performs so badly on highways. The council’s original contractor Ringway was not performing well and was replaced in 2011 by Ringway. Ringway was pretty much a disaster and was replaced by Kier in 2018. There have been many reports to the council since about problems with Kier’s performance and 2020 Shropshire’s roads were described as being in crisis. Over the last three years, the highways operation has changed with immediate repair work undertaken by the council, an approach that has led to the council being nominated for an award. The results of this change are yet to be felt across most of Shropshire.

Finances

The other reason that some of our highways are in such a state, is the continued restrictions on council finances. To keep pace with inflation, the budget of £20.1 million allocated in 2010/11 should be £24.9 million now. Instead, the initial budget for 2024/25 is just £15.4 million, nearly £10 million lower.

Notes

[1] Data from Condition of local authority managed roads (RDC01). The data describe the overall condition of road surfaces, not the plague of potholes that affect a large proportion of roads in the county.

[2] Oflog is a new government office. It oversees local government but does not regulate it. Given the passion of successive governments for interfering in local government affairs, this could change.

[3] Shropshire Council did not submit sufficient information on the condition on B & C roads for 2022/23, hence the 2021/22 submission is used.

[4] Shropshire Council is not responsible for maintenance of principle roads (trunk roads) such as the A49 and A5.

[5] Data from NHT Public Satisfaction Survey 2023 an annual survey of most highway authorities. Unlike many highways authorities, Shropshire Council does not publish the survey results for its area annually. The NHT survey is sent to more than 3,000 people in the council area with more than 1,000 responding.

One thought on “The State of Shropshire: Our Roads (SOS1)”
  1. Almost yearly central government give extra money to councils for road maintenance. Shropshire council is no exception. So where have they spent all this money? Certainly not on the roads I use in South Shropshire. Could it be the lions share is spent on the roads in and around Shrewsbury? Just like no money for the Assembly Rooms but lots for Theatre Severn.

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