Council attacks 'keyboard warrior mentality' as Fifers criticise pothole repair times

Fife road bosses have railed against the "keyboard warrior mentality" of locals criticising the time it takes to repair potholes.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 7:30 am

Derek Crowe, Fife Council's roads manager, said the demands and expectations placed on workers by the public had become "unsustainable".

He has produced a report highlighting the growing pressures on road maintenance crews, and is using it to call for patience while up to a dozen teams work around the clock to patch up Kingdom highways.

He told a committee meeting this week: "It's been a very very challenging year and during the pandemic period we've seen a significant upswing in customer demand on the service: contacts, queries, complaints, social media requests, that have been unsustainable.

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Potholes

"We're needing a light touch because of the huge demand on service colleagues. We need to get rid of this keyboard warrior mentality we have at the moment.

"The volume of correspondence coming into the service has become unsustainable and the backlog then puts stress on the staff themselves."

Road budgets in Fife have shrunk by a third over the last decade but the areas of responsibility have grown, meaning officers are having to reassess how and when they fix divots in the road.

Potholes are being assessed under a new "risk-based" system to assess how urgently patching is needed. While this will ensure the most dangerous defects are repaired immediately - the most critical will be patched within 24 hours - it does mean bumps judged not to present an immediate hazard may not be fixed for up to a year, or even longer.

Council bosses say the delays mean fewer rush jobs and better, longer lasting repairs - but the Covid-19 pandemic, and erratic weather over winter, have created a backlog of requests.

Crowe's report shows that while 91% of all "critical" fixes between September and February were fixed within 24 hours, 21% of "high" priority repairs, the next stage down, were not addressed within a target of five days.

Mr Crowe added: "The timing wasn't brilliant since the pandemic was in full swing but did our best to continue with aiming for first-and-only complete repairs.

"Stage one [critical] and two [high] complaints are very time consuming for senior staff to deal with at a time when staff are affected aby absence. It was a crisis and it still is a crisis situation that we are dealing with.

"The last three months, with Covid and the lockdown, and the two months of really freaky weather, Storm Darcy in February, a week of flooding, two weeks of snow, have all taken the team doing pothole repairs away. They are the same team driving gritters around Fife."

A recent freedom of information request found that just four out of 367 of pothole damage claims made to Fife Council in 2020 were successful

Despite the challenges, the roads boss is confident that pothole woes across the Kingdom - from Dunfermline and West Fife through to the north of the region, where the worst road flaws are - will be sorted in the long-term.

"Our strapline is to vanquish potholes in Fife and I'm hoping by the time we approach next winter the situation will be greatly different," he concluded.

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