Graphic: Damage caused by potholes has cost £500,000 in compensation claims
PUBLISHED: 16:48 22 April 2014 | UPDATED: 17:31 22 April 2014
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010
Damaged caused by potholes on the region’s roads has seen councils fork out almost half a million pounds in compensation over the past five years, new figures have revealed.
With local authorities facing serious finanical pressures, the battle to keep our roads in a fit state continues to be a struggle despite some extra cash from the Government.
But if councils cannot keep up with the huge repair bill to mend cracked roads after each winter, then they face claims from road users whose vehicles have been damaged.
The figures, from a Freedom of Information request, show that from 2009/10 to 2013/14, Norfolk County Council paid out £67,944.70 in compensation claims for pothole damage, while Suffolk paid out £61,344, which includes its own legal fees, and Cambridgeshire County Council £338,483.71.
In Norfolk, successful claims were made by cyclists, motorcyclists, and owners of other vehicles, as well as the owner of a building which was damaged by water and debris from a pothole being thrown up against the property.
The largest payout of £1,800 was to a man who lost control and crashed his car after hitting a series of potholes that deflated his tyre.
In Suffolk one claim cost the council £4,959, although a large proportion of those who lodged a claim were unsuccessful and received nothing at all.
Harsh conditions in 2009/10 led to Cambridgeshire County Council settling 488 claims of more than £162,000, with the largest single claim totalling £14,343.60. Another 502 claims were either rejected or withdrawn that year.
While the Chancellor George Osborne pledged another £200m to help councils fix potholes in his 2014 Budget, earlier this month a report showed that the “catch-up” cost of getting the country’s local road network back into reasonable condition has soared to £12 billion.
While Suffolk County Council said it does no record the number of pothole complaints it receives, Cambridgeshire County Council said it had 7,129 complaints in 2009/10, 6,568 the year after, 3,257 in 2011/12, 6,613 in 2012/13 and 6,094 up until February 27 in 2013/14.
Norfolk said its formal complaints database had only 40 complaints about potholes recorded in the last three years.
This month, Norfolk County Council has been highlighting the ongoing work carried out by its highways teams to keep the county’s 6,000 miles of roads in a decent condition and encouraging people to help by reporting potholes after they spot one.
David Harrison, cabinet member for environment, transport, development and waste, said: “The maintenance work done by our highways teams is vital, to people’s safety and to the economy of the county. It’s a constant battle and a costly business to keep our roads in a decent state of repair, not least because Norfolk is such a large, rural county, but the department manages it extremely well.
“Potholes are a nuisance, and they can be a danger, but they are unfortunately a fact of life. We want people to know that our highways teams work hard to repair our roads, get the job done effectively and efficiently, and take a real pride in their work.”
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “It’s key to note that potholes and road defects are registered with highways in two ways, through regular inspections of roads by the highways service and by the reporting system which we rely on the public to provide us. Dangerous road defects are prioritised and are being dealt with immediately.”
A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “Cambridgeshire County Council is committed to maintaining the highway network to the highest standards possible within the financial resources available to us. Those efforts include spending more than £7m last year on repairs and maintenance, setting aside some £2m for winter treatment such as gritting and committing to finding an extra £90m over five years for highway maintenance.”
What do you think of the state of our roads? Write, (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPletters@archant.co.uk