Wiltshire Council has spent slightly more compensating motorists for pothole damage than the £1,300,000 given to Wiltshire Council under the government's Pothole Action Fund. Some of the compensation has been paid out for damage to cars and some to people who have suffered personal injury.
The shocking facts have been revealed through questions tabled by Independent Councillor Nicholas Fogg, who represents Marlborough West on the unitary authority, following growing concerns about the deteriorating state of the town's roads.
“It is an extraordinary revelation,” said Councillor Fogg. “The special sum supposedly allocated by the government to deal with dangerous potholes on highways, is exceeded by the sum that Wiltshire has had to pay out in compensation to road users over the previous four years."
“The large sum paid out in compensation for personal injury is deeply disturbing. If this is repeated across all the local authorities in England and Wales – and there is no reason to suppose that it is not -- it must mean that the state of our roads is a serious danger to public health and yet another serious drain on our beleaguered National Health Service.”
Councillor Fogg's initial questions followed reports that 90 motorists a week are being given compensation by local authorities for damage done to their cars by potholes. It was reported that councils are settling 19,000 compensations claims with just under 6,000 more still outstanding.
The Councillor's enquiries were also prompted by the building of Marlborough's new primary school for 420 pupils which is due to open in September. Its main entrance is off George Lane - a road increasingly damaged by heavy traffic loads and which Wiltshire Council claims it does not have the funds to repair.
Councillor Fogg was told by Wiltshire Council officers that of the £1 billion allocated nationally by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Autumn Statement, £14,757,000 had been received by Wiltshire for ongoing highways maintenance and a further £1,300,000 had been received for its Pothole Action Fund.
Further questions then revealed that from 2012-13 to the end of the last financial year Wiltshire Council had received 5,249 claims for compensation for pothole damage, with a total of 3,431 completed applications for compensation.
Councillor Fogg then requested to know how much money, if any, Wiltshire had paid in compensation over the past four years: “The officer's response was that total amount paid for compensation on highways claims was £1,319,000.”
“Of that sum paid to the 3,451 applicants for compensation, as a result of damage to vehicles or person caused by faulty road surfaces, £450,000 related to damage to vehicles and £869,000 related to personal injury.”
Local authorities have been obliged to pay out this kind of compensation as a result of a House of Lords appeal judgment of 15 June, 2000 – Goodes v East Sussex County Council – which stated that Section 41 (1) of the Highways Act 1860 requires them to maintain/repair roads at public expense.