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Claims over pothole pain rocket - but just 10 per cent get payout

PUBLISHED: 06:00 05 November 2016

Potholes

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Figures reveal most drivers aren’t getting compensation

Kent County Council fields one of the highest number of claims for damage caused by potholes, a survey has found - but just 10 per cent receive any payout.

The RAC Foundation checks the totals for all of the councils in the UK, and found Kent sits at number four in the charts for the sheer number of claims put in.

It says Kent County Council was hit with 1,120 claims but paid out on just 112 of them with an outlay of £30,948 - that’s just under £280 each.

By comparison, Hampshire is at the top of the table with 1,952 claims. That county council paid out on 306 of them for a total of £103,480; an average of just under £340 each.

Terry Hudson, the Kent representative for the Alliance of British Drivers, was dismayed at the findings.

He told us: “We in Kent do not seem to fair very well with only 10 per cent of compensation claims being successful, out of a total 1,120 requested.

“If you claimed in Northumberland, there was a 70 per cent chance of being successful.

“One could argue that Kent is much more densely populated and therefore roads carry much more traffic, so encouraging more claims. But then northern counties have much more harsh weather, which is often used as excuse for road damage.

“But this still does not reflect the discrepancy of actual pay-outs.

“While generally potholes numbers have been reduced over the last few years, once off the more main roads we are still left with a crumbling road system.

“Many, now very busy roads, are too narrow and hence nearside edges have become dangerous as they crumble away and what can be a nasty jolt in a car, can become quite dangerous if on two wheels.

“Another problem is that a damaged tyre or faulty suspension may be not immediately obvious and may only appear weeks or months later and so is too late to be claimed for, even if you could pin-point the actual rut or pothole.

“If we add the amount of direct taxation paid by drivers, it equates to around £50 billion per year, but only about 10 per cent is reinvested back into the road infrastructure.

“While political party’s support grandiose schemes like HS2, which will cost a minimum of £50 billion, would this huge investment be better spent on maintaining roads, most people use every day of their lives?”

Overall in the UK during the past 12 months, drivers made at least 31,483 claims against councils for vehicle damage caused by poor road conditions. Astonishingly, this is a claim submitted every 17 minutes.

But there is a huge gap between the number of claims and payouts, suggesting motorists are ‘trying it on’ or councils are strict about the conditions that need satisfying before a cheque is signed.

Overall, authorities settled 26.9 per cent of cases in favour of the driver - the rest were thrown out.

The analysis by the RAC Foundation is based on data collected from 204 out the 207 local authorities in the UK.

Even when there was a payout, councils didn’t always pay the full amount claimed.

The average value of a claim was £432, though the average value of a successful claim was lower at £306.

Between Hampshire and Kent, the second highest number of claims made against it was Surrey at 1,412, and Hertfordshire on 1,369.

All councils in the UK had claims, except the Isles of Scilly.

And Orkney Council along with the City of London, had only one each.

The weather has taken its toll on the roads in recent years. The total number of claims received in 2015/16 by councils across Great Britain is 31,483, which is around nine per cent higher than the previous year.

A Kent County Council spokesman said: “We are one of the largest local authorities in England, with over 5,000 miles of road network, which in part explains Kent’s position in terms of the number of claims lodged, in the RAC Foundation research.

“It is significant, though, that the figures show we had one of lowest ‘successful’ claim figures in the country – reflecting a low level of liability because of our improved fault reporting and repairs brought in over the past few years.

“We work hard to maintain our roads to help prevent problems and potholes in the future.

“Resurfacing roads is an essential part to maintaining our 5,400 mile road network for longer and we schedule in planned work, where necessary, each year, usually during warmer months.

“We select the right method at the right time to get best value for money.

“Our resurfacing programme is published on Kent.gov and our programme is based on road condition data.

“This includes regular inspections, annual surveys using specialist equipment, and reports from councillors, parish councils, community groups and residents.

“Our inspectors regularly check for defects but we encourage people to help us identify any problems and report them.

“Our recent pothole blitz has so far seen more than 1,300 potholes permanently repaired together with over 55,000m-sq of larger road repairs across the county, and over 12,000 repairs undertaken as part of our day to day routine highway maintenance.

“The council is spending an extra £3 million on pothole repairs this year. Additional repairs have been undertaken by local companies and the workforce empowered to address any potholes in a street they are working in if a repair is required, this has proven to be very successful and provide a complete job from our customer perspective.”

Still, the RAC Foundation found there is a general backlog of maintenance. Using the government’s own assessment, they found some £8.6bn still needs to be spent.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “These figures are symptomatic of the inadequate funding available for local road maintenance.

“Year in, year out, the backlog of work on local roads is estimated to run to several billion pounds.

“A pitted road surface isn’t just a problem for motorists – for those on two wheels it can be life threatening.

“Just last week the chancellor acknowledged that there had been decades of underfunding in the nation’s infrastructure and that he was keen to support targeted, value-for-money public investment. Providing the funds to fix our roads would be a great place to start and would show rapid results.”

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