Message from Mike Whiting, KCC Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste.
I wanted to give you an update following the recent snow emergency that we experienced in Kent. The arrival of snow led to a very busy week for everyone in KCC, but particularly for highways.
Our Contact Centre received more than 2,000 highway calls over just 7 days and nearly 1,000 winter enquiries were logged on our fault reporting tool. The help and support we received from Parishes, District and Borough Councils and the contracts with local farmers was superb. Together, we managed to keep more than 1,700 miles of primary roads salted, ploughed and moving. In addition, the town centres were quickly cleared by hand, more than 300 salt bins were refilled and whilst we know that some rural communities were particularly badly hit, we worked tirelessly to keep supporting our most vulnerable residents and our colleagues in the emergency services, despite some areas having up to 20ft snow drifts.
As you will have seen, the road network has not escaped unscathed and in the last week alone, more than 1,200 potholes have been reported (one of the highest weekly enquiry demand we have ever seen). We are already starting to get the most serious of these defects repaired. Some are through temporary but harder wearing materials to remove any immediate danger, whereas many require permanent repairs or even for whole areas to be resurfaced. We are planning a much wider pothole blitz campaign and this is due to commence from the beginning of April. A substantial budget is identified, and delivery of this programme will be, as last year, through local contractor contracts.
We already inspect every road in Kent on a regular basis (ranging from monthly for high speed and major roads through to annually for minor and some rural roads), but we also rely on the public and Parishes reporting any defects that are found between these inspections. We have improved our online fault reporting tool which can be found at www.kent.gov.uk/highwayfaults which will work from any kind of device.
By using this tool, the faults go directly into our highways fault management system, so they can be immediately actioned by our staff.
Our stewards will inspect the faults and either make a temporary repair if necessary, or arrange for a permanent repair to be completed as quickly as possible. Every fault is assessed against our safety criteria and will be repaired either in 2 hours if it’s an emergency fault, within 7 days for urgent faults, or within 28 days for non-urgent faults. If the road is going to need resurfacing, we will call customers to let them know how quickly it will be done, but this can take a little longer for us to plan and action.
Once faults have been logged, customers can track their enquiries using the unique reference number they are provided with and we are now providing much more detail from our contractors on the status of the repairs. Please note that we quality check repairs and if it has not been satisfactorily completed by our contractors, then they will be called back to do it again (we only pay them for the repair once, only when we are happy that it meets our standards and all are guaranteed for 1 year). The online tool can be used by customers to let us know if any recent repairs by KCC or indeed 3rd parties such as the utilities, are not up to standard.
Parishes also have the Parish Portal which allows them to see all reported issues within their own areas and check all of the current statuses. This can be accessed via: https://webapps.kent.gov.uk/KCC.ParishPortal.Web.Sites.Public/Unsecurepages/Login.aspx.
Online reporting remains the quickest way to let us know about issues and it saves having to try to describe the information over the phone which can be more time consuming and frees up our Contact Centre staff to deal with more complex and emergency enquiries, so please do encourage your residents to go online if possible.
If they don’t have internet access, they can always get help in any of the Kent Libraries or Gateways. 50% of all highway enquiries are already reported directly by the public using our online tool and we want to achieve even more, as every saved phone call means more time saved in getting the repairs investigated and repaired.
Your help over the last few weeks has been of the utmost importance and I thank you for everything that you have done both individually and as part of the wider community. Please be assured that my highways colleagues are doing everything that they can to keep the county safe and moving.
Member serving Swale West
Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste