Pothole compensation payoffs spiralling as roads continue to fall apart
Compensation paid by councils across the West to drivers whose cars have been damaged by potholes has topped £1 million for the first time.
Figures out today show that while thousands of motorists from Gloucestershire to Dorset have claimed for the damage done to their cars from potholes, the cash-strapped councils still have not got on top of the pothole problem, with the backlog of work growing by millions since last year.
Two cold winters in 2010 and 2011 saw a huge jump in the numbers of potholes, and the increase in the number of motorists claiming compensation for repairs from their local council was also made bigger by more widespread knowledge of how to go about making a claim.
Nationally, the research by consumer group Which? showed councils paid more than £20 million in compensation, £1 million of which came from roads in the West.
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The Government allocated an extra £200 million to local highway authorities to repair potholes but has only slowed the growth of a backlog of work, not stopped it. Since 2009, the backlog of repairs has grown.
The average amount each local council estimates it will cost to fix all the potholes in its area has risen from £53.2 million three years ago to £61.3 million.
“It is estimated that it would cost £12.93 billion to clear the entire road maintenance backlog in the UK,” said Richard Lloyd, Which?’s executive director. “Potholes are a menace for all road users. With temperatures plummeting this week and the bitter weather conditions set to continue, the backlog of repairs could grow again. Drivers should help themselves and everyone else on the road by pointing out potholes to the local council,” he added.
For councils in the South West, the average repair estimate has risen from £40 million to £48 million, with larger rural councils and unitary authorities such as Wiltshire and Somerset quoting much higher figures.
But even though compensation for a damaged car from a pothole means taxpayers’ money is paid to drivers rather than to fix more potholes, Which? said drivers should still claim – potholes will get fixed much faster if councils fear compensation claims.
“If your car has been damaged by a pothole, you may be able to claim compensation from the council. However, the likelihood of claims being successful depends on whether the local authority was aware of the pothole in the first place and hasn’t repaired it, or if it hasn’t followed guidelines,” added Mr Lloyd.
“If your claim is rejected, you can use the small claims court but it is advisable to seek legal advice first.”
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