Blocked drains in Hertfordshire could be waiting in an 18-month long queue to be cleaned, says councillors.

County councillors Sandy Walkington and Stephen Giles-Medhurst said there is only one vactor unit - a multi-purpose vehicle designed to clean drains - for the whole of the county, which Cllr Walkington called "wholly inadequate".

Cllr Giles-Medhurst explained that once a blocked drain is reported, it is logged and assessed by an inspector, and if required the machine will be flagged to Ringway that it is needed. But said under the contract with Ringway, a vactor unit has to deal with the drain within 18 months.

He said this is because a single unit has to accommodate the entire county and may be assigned to a different area at the time. He explained that areas with blocked drains could be more prone to flooding if there is heavy rain.

He said once the contract with Ringway runs out in 2023, it should be agreed between the Hertfordshire County Council and Ringway that a second machine should be provided.

He said: "It appears that those who get the vactor unit are those who shout the loudest or areas that have to be prioritised because of extreme flooding. You may have a blocked drain or a more serious problem but you may not know until the vactor unit turns up."

Cllr Walkington shared his own experiences with trying to secure the machine and said it took him "numerous proddings" to get the unit to clear the drains at the foot of Holywell Hill, which he believes has led to the flooding of adjacent properties and the unit is scheduled to clean the drains at Cottonmill Lane in January.

He said that at a recent full council meeting, councillors were told that there are 975 drains , in which there are 179,000 in the county, that are waiting to be dug out.

He added: "Under the terms of the highway contract with Ringway, there is only one vactor unit to look after the whole county - it is wholly inadequate. Given the increasing frequency of extreme rainfall and consequent floods, it seems time for a rethink."

A spokesperson from Hertfordshire County Council said that the "reactive use" of the unit is not "operationally viable".

They explained that on average, blocked drains are attended within seven-and-a-half months from the date they're reported and that all the drains are on an attendance schedule.

They added: "Floods and drainage problems tend to happen across the county at the same time, as a result of high intensity or prolonged heavy rainfall.

"Using our own vactor unit has provided us with more reliable access, an evidence-led programme and better managed costs, when compared to reactively managing this kind of work."

But Cllr Giles-Medhurst said the seven-and-a-half months' response time is based on the fact that some incidents are dealt with immediately while some wait longer to be dealt with, he said that the average response time is still "not good enough".