Single pothole accident costs taxpayers £1.8m

Experts warn more needs to be done

Updated: 

Large deep pothole an example of poor road maintance due to reducing local council repair budgets

A council paid out a jaw-dropping £1.8 million in compensation for a single pothole incident last year, it has been revealed.

Following an accident, Somerset County Council was forced to hand over the cash for 'general damages', the Somerset County Gazette has discovered. The council says it can't reveal any more about the accident for legal reasons.

See also: RAC call outs double for pothole-related damage

See also: Revealed: the UK's worst roads, costing a fortune in repairs

Altogether, the council paid out £2.1 million to 31 claimants in the 2016-17 financial year - up from £895,716 in 2015-16 and £171,425 in 2014-15.

The cheapest claim over the last three years was £11.99 for damage to clothing caused by overgrown brambles that the council should have cut back.

According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance, the conditions of the UK's roads is so bad that one in six local roads will need to be repaired, or may even face closure, over the next five years.

The reason, it says is decades of underfunding, increased traffic and wetter winters.

"Our local roads are an asset worth in excess of £400 billion but, at present, less than 1% of their value is being spent annually on maintenance. Looking ahead, governance, regionalisation, skills and
technology are all issues that could have profound consequences for the future of the network," says chairman Alan Mackenzie.

"The message is clear: our local roads are failing and it's time we had a rethink about how to adequately fund them in the future. Clearing the maintenance backlog remains impossible without a significant increase in funding."

The RAC Foundation last year calculated that the average value of a pothole claim was £432, with the average actual payout being £306. Compensation is only given if you can show that the council was negligent or failing in its statutory duty.

"Often events occur that are unfortunate but not due to any party's negligence. As such, there is no automatic entitlement to compensation or any guarantee that making a claim will be successful," a spokesman for Somerset County Council tells the paper.

"The onus is on the claimant to prove their claim, which includes providing full details of the incident including accurate dates, locations and details of the incident to enable us to investigate the claim properly."

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