THE county council plans to start charging daily "rent for lanes" to speed up road repairs as it looks to win its “war of attrition” with utility companies.

Councillor Alan Amos, cabinet member for highways, said Worcestershire County Council is planning to start charging utility companies such as Severn Trent, gas suppliers Cadent and BT Openreach, by the day for carrying out repairs on roads in a bid to cut unnecessarily long delays.

The plan comes after the county council handed out more than £800,000 in fines to utility companies last year for poor standards, shoddy repairs and delays.

However, the council cannot start renting lanes out to companies until April 2021.

Cllr Amos said the utility companies could be “brought under control” through renting out roads for a daily fee – and would charge more during rush hour – to allow repairs to go ahead.

He said: “Given that utilities only seem to respond when they are being hit in their pockets, I have no doubt that this will bring about a significant improvement on traffic congestion because of the much tighter control over how long those repairs will take.

“It’s a win-win situation because the utilities will want to do the work much more quickly and residents, motorists and the council want them to do them more quickly.”

Cllr Amos said the council had a “robust, zero-tolerance” policy to substandard work that did not meet its high standards or was delayed.

He said the law is on the side of the utility companies which means fines are often “meaningless.”

The council receives more than 300 applications a day to dig up the county’s roads – and highways bosses admit it struggles to scrutinise every single application thoroughly - leaving around 10 per cent which are inspected in detail.

The council increased inspections last year by five per cent - handing out an extra £200,000 in fines - and has begun carrying out repairs if the utility company does not respond within two hours and then hands them the bill.

Cllr Amos revealed Severn Trent failed almost a quarter of inspections whilst work was being carried out and failed a further quarter of inspections after the work was completed in the last four months. BT Openreach failed more than a fifth of inspections carried out when work was completed.

He said: “These are not good enough and we will not put up with it. The utilities need to know this.”