Thousands make pothole damage claims against councils

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Almost 50,000 drivers made claims against councils across Yorkshire and the rest of Britain for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes in the last financial year, according to shock new figures.

In Leeds a total of 332 drivers tried to secure compensation after their cars had been damaged, while in North Yorkshire 318 drivers made a claim, in Sheffield the figure was 255, in Kirkless 235 motorists put in a claim, while in the East Riding the figure was 103, in Calderdale the figure was 54 and in York 33 drivers made a claim.

The 200 local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales who responded to Freedom of Information requests from the RAC Foundation said they dealt with 48,664 compensation claims in 2013/14 - an increase on the 2012/13 figure of 46,139 claims, according to the RAC Foundation.

Councils across Britain refused the majority of claims, agreeing to pay out in less than a quarter of cases, and the total value of successful claims was £3.2m. In North Yorkshire only 13.5 per cent of the claims were successful, while in Leeds 28.9 per cent were successful with the council paying out almost £30,000 in 2013/14.

In Sheffield 36.5 per cent of claims were successful, in Bradford 14.6 per cent of claims secured compensation and in York 6.1 per cent were successful, according to the RAC Foundation figures.

Nationwide the average payout for a successful claim in 2013/14 was £286, down from £357 the year before and the average administration cost of each claim - successful or not - was £147, the transport policy and research organisation said.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said last night the figures were “likely to be the tip of the iceberg” and said councils were not given enough money for roads.

“Many drivers will be put off by the time involved in claiming against a council, and many councils do their best to deter claimants coming forward.

“But the fundamental problem lies not at the doors of our town halls but with central government. Despite occasional one-off grants related to periods of harsh weather, they are simply not giving councils enough money to keep their road networks up to scratch,” he said.

Prof Glaister added: “In England, local authorities themselves estimate the maintenance backlog to be about £12 billion yet over the past five years spending on all roads across England and Wales has dropped 22 per cent in real terms.

“Worn out road surfaces do not simply cause damage to vehicles they are also potentially lethal, particularly for two-wheeled road users.”

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation which explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “Good local roads are vital for our transport network and it is for local councils to maintain them properly - this Government has provided over £4.7bn since 2010, an increase of £1bn compared to the previous parliament. As part of our long term economic plan, we will also spend a further £6 billion between 2015 to 2021 providing councils the certainty they require to plan how they will keep their roads well maintained.”