One pothole claim made every 18 minutes, RAC Foundation reveals


Drivers in Britain made around 29,000 pothole damage claims in the last financial year, resulting in local highways authorities handing over £2m in compensation.

The volume of claims amounts to one every 18 minutes day and night, 365 days a year, but is actually down significantly on the 48,945 claims made the previous year 2013-14.

Out of 207 local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, 200 responded to the FOI request from the RAC Foundation, which also found that on average councils agreed to pay out on 25% of claims, while the average settlement was up from £286 to £294.

Table from RAC Foundation

However the RAC Foundation highlighted a wide variation between councils. Hampshire CC had the largest total payout for compensation at £285,685 on 843 successful claims, at a 48% claim success rate.

While only paying out £21,466 on 97 claims, Bury had the highest success rate for claimants at 88% followed by Plymouth on 86% and Bolton on 81%. Devon had some of the worst overall results, with a total payout close to the top of the table at £141,385 on 662 claims at a 71% success rate.

Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon Cc cabinet member for highway management and flood prevention, said: 'Devon’s 8,000 mile highway network is the biggest of any authority in the country, and therefore the level of compensation is proportionate to the size of our network. The compensation paid out in the last financial year is around the same level as 2010/11, when we also had consecutive harsh winters.

'Our roads have been devastated by storms and flooding in recent winters, and last year we repaired more than 63,000 potholes. We have used £16 million of Government grants to carry out a comprehensive programme of surfacing and drainage repairs to improve the resilience of our highway network. We would need to invest £64m of capital per year to maintain Devon’s road network in its current condition. However, our Government settlement for the next financial year is around £42m.'

There were 21 councils that paid out nothing at all, including Hackney in London, which had 25 claims made against it and North Tyneside despite having 35 claims made against it.

A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said: 'As well as carrying out our own regular road inspections, we also have a good response rate to those reported to us by the public, endeavouring to inspect them within one day. We prioritise repairs to ensure any that could be a danger to the public are fixed within 24 hours of it being inspected and all others fixed within 10 working days.

'We are pleased that this approach has reduced the number of complaints and associated insurance claims.'

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘One reading of these figures could be that local roads are in better condition than they were. But that does not square with councils’ own assessment that the road maintenance backlog is actually growing, not falling.

‘It could instead be that many drivers are put off by the time involved in claiming against a council while councils themselves do their best to deter claimants coming forward. But 28,971 claims in one year is still a huge number – three an hour, every day of the year.

‘Ahead of the general election an RAC Foundation poll found that the condition of roads and pavements was regarded as the number one transport issue amongst voters, just as it was back in 2010.’

He also called on chancellor George Osborne to consider the highways maintenance backlog, estimated by highways authorities to be more than £12bn, when it comes to the November spending review.

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