The biggest and most expensive asset owned and managed by Swindon Borough Council is its roads network - at more than £1 billion in cost and it is vital to the town’s prosperity.

But a report by the council’s own audit committee is damning about the way the authority has been managing that asset.

It said: “The Highways Assets Team has undergone a period of instability with senior officers, with significant knowledge and experience, leaving the organisation and not being replaced.

"A new Head of Service has been employed who is committed to ensuring the team is supported to operate effectively and efficiently. However, their area of responsibility is very wide and they do not have background experience in asset management.

"In addition, the Director of Strategic Development and Growth, with overall responsibility for Highways Asset Management, acknowledges that this is an area that he has the least experience and knowledge of, within his remit.

"Officers interviewed described the team as rudderless, with no strategic direction. They feel they have been left to manage as best they can, using their knowledge and experience to make decisions with no other support or guidance.

"It is testament to the team that they have been able to manage this, with reducing capacity, increasing assets and single points of failure in several disciplines, however this is not sustainable.

"Without a clear focus on the Highways Asset Management function, including an understanding of the resourcing levels required and succession planning, there is a significant risk to the council.”

Problems with Swindon's roads has been a common complaint among residents in recent years, with Mead Way road works and potholes regularly referenced.

Richard Bell, the director of strategic development and growth mentioned in the report, said he had commissioned the audit team to look into the issue.

The asset management team has since passed to the control of Brian Pinchbeck, the interim corporate director of inclusive economy and sustainability.

Mr Bell said: “In 2021 when the management structure was fully staffed it was suitable.”

But in June last year, the highways development manager left and the head of service took on more of the role but was overstretched.

That member of staff has since resigned.

The council is looking to fill positions of both head of highways asset management and the head of service and Mr Bell said: “There are currently four applications for the head of asset management role.

“We will soon have the skills expertise and technical knowledge and leadership in place to act in accord with the report’s recommendations."