CLAIMS Northumberland was revealed to be the worst-hit area for potholes in new research was disputed by the county council.

Research by RIFT, a finance specialist, revealed the damage caused by potholes cost motorists an estimated £1.7bn last year, but despite this, there was an 18 per cent reduction in the number of potholes filled UK-wide.

RIFT analysed the number of potholes filled each year, the cost of this and which areas of the nation have seen the biggest increase in the number of potholes on the roads. 

It claimed Northumberland was the worst-hit county for potholes with 51,703, followed by Cornwall (24,836) and North Yorkshire (22,094). 

Northumberland County Council leader, Glen Sanderson, said: "Apart from not being clear about what is a defect and what is a pothole and the inaccuracies this brings, this survey is meaningless - to compare a small council with 200 miles of road which may all be A-class main roads with a very large rural council like ours with over 3,000 miles of roads including small country roads is simply bonkers."

Northumberland County Councillor John Riddle, cabinet member for Improving our Roads and Highways, said: "Data for 2021/22 shows other parts of the country, Derbyshire and Lancashire, had far higher number of potholes than Northumberland so the claim the county is the nation's hotspot is misleading and inaccurate.

"The figure of 51,703 quoted by this company is all actionable defects that were identified on the road network in Northumberland in 2021/22, so everything we repair on the road - not just potholes. Of these defects, we repaired an impressive 50,824 or around 98 per cent. 

"Looking after roads in Northumberland remains a key priority for the Council but it is particularly challenging as our network is so extensive  - more than 3,100 miles - with considerable impacts of winter weather, particularly in higher areas -  and with many roads that simply weren't built for the volume and weight of traffic that they are now carrying.

"Many councils have much smaller areas of road to look after (some with only 200 miles of road) so doing a comparison between councils without considering the number of potholes per mile isn't a reliable calculation. We know from data from the Department for Transport (Dft) nationally accredited road condition surveys that the condition of our roads is in line with the situation across the country. 

"Our main funding for highway maintenance comes from Department for Transport and has been around £21m per year. In addition to this, the Council has put in a further £17.5m in its own capital to improve road maintenance over the last three years and we've also been proactive wherever possible to win additional funding from DfT.

"We are continually investing in our services to improve highway maintenance - whether for helping reporting, improving our management systems or improving plant and materials for repair. In recent times we have invested in new Pothole Pro road maintenance equipment and have introduced a new reporting system - Fix My Street - to make it easier for the public to report and get feedback on a whole range of environmental issues including potholes."

Derek Kennedy, mayor of Hexham, said: "It's a huge number, but it should be understood that Northumberland is a huge county so if you compare Northumberland versus, for example, the City of Newcastle as a council area, the difference is in the amount of territory and road network is considerably larger."