Councillor warned over concerns on pothole repairs in Batley

The leader of Kirklees Council has cautioned fellow councillors against criticising contractors that work for the authority.

Batley councillor Habiban Zaman

Coun Shabir Pandor’s comments came after his party colleague, Habiban Zaman, said pothole repairs in the borough were not succeeding and asked whether the contract for the work could be scrutinised.

It led to a stark warning from Coun Pandor, who said: “I think you should be cautious. I don’t want to start criticising council contractors. You don’t want to say anything that could bring libel action against us.”

Coun Zaman said parts of her ward in Batley West were riddled with potholes that required repeated repair.

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Some potholes in Kirklees are having to be repaired several times, prompting calls for a re-look at the contract to deal with them

She queried whether workers were using “very cheap materials” and “not doing a good job”. She said the problem was not confined to her ward but was across the borough.

She said: “In my opinion I don’t feel that the contractors we’re using are doing a good enough job. The work has been done and before they’ve filled it and moved on, the potholes are back in the same place.

“You look at the complaints and the amount of inquiries … are just getting bigger and bigger. At what point are we going to start re-looking at whether this is an effective contractor that we’re using?”

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny management committee on Tuesday, Coun Pandor (Lab, Batley West) said “the big issue” was not potholes but a lack of investment caused by £200m of Government cuts, which he called “the bottom line”.

He said: “We have a backlog of road repairs totalling £165m. At a current rate of investment, bearing in mind it’s a three-year plan, it’ll take the best part of 80 or 90 years to get to where we need to get to. By that time the condition of the roads will get worse.”

Committee chair Coun Liz Smaje (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) suggested: “Were you meaning that the cabinet ought to look at the value for money that we are getting for the work that the council is carrying out?”

In response to Coun Zaman’s question, Coun Pandor said: “The perception is very, very dangerous. The point I’m making is that we have a procurement process where everything is above board. It’s all transparent. It’s all accountable. You were making some serious allegations.”

Coun Smaje said there had been no such allegation.

Coun Zaman said the same potholes being filled by workers were re-occurring.

“Why are they re-occurring? It’s not a case that we’re having such adverse weather that that pothole has reappeared.”

Coun Pandor later apologised for misinterpreting Coun Zaman’s question.

Coun Andrew Marchington (Lib Dem, Golcar) recalled the council carrying out trials of a machine known as a “multihog”, which removes damaged road surface from around a pothole as well as the actual hole that has formed.

On its website four years ago the council said trials of the machine had been positive, and that using the multihog “means that the council is less likely to have to revisit the same area twice to fix potholes that have formed later in the surrounding road surface”.

It also said workers would continue to use “the nationally approved hand repair process” on potholes.

Coun Marchington said: “It would be really good to see what happened to that piece of work.”