Northamptonshire’s pothole damage payouts increase seven-fold

Potholes file pic
Potholes file pic

Almost 250 drivers successfully claimed compensation for damage caused by Northamptonshire’s shocking roads in the past 12 months.

The seven-fold increase in the number of payouts - a huge jump from just 33 to 246 - has been branded ‘appalling’ by one councillor.

Freedom of Information requests by the Northants Telegraph revealed every successful claim against Northamptonshire County Council over damage caused by potholes between March 2017 and March 2019.

Between March 26, 2017, and March 26, 2018, just four per cent of claims made were successful with a total of £10,501.27 paid out.

Over the same dates between 2018 and 2019, 31 per cent of claims were paid out.

These cost the taxpayer a total of £69,188.78 - despite 1,300 fewer reports of potholes to the council year-on-year.

Chris Stanbra NNL-181113-102951001

Chris Stanbra NNL-181113-102951001

Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the county council Cllr Chris Stanbra said: “There has been an unbelievable increase in successful claims and it just confirms how the Conservatives are allowing the roads in the county to deteriorate.

“It’s appalling and like most things under the county council it’s driven by a lack of money.”

Many of the successful claims came after incidents in April 2018 - just weeks after then council leader Heather Smith stepped down after a Government inspection report pointed to a series of catastrophic financial failures.

The county council is not liable for damage caused by road craters if it has acted within a reasonable timeframe to repair defects and has carried out regular inspections to ensure the road is safe.

Mick Scrimshaw.

Mick Scrimshaw.

Figures provided by the council show there were some roads where successful claims were made over a number of incidents within days of each other – or in some cases a matter of hours.

Five of the successful claims related to separate incidents on March 29, 2018, in Station Road in Burton Latimer.

The incidents, which all took place between 9.15am and 10pm on the same day, cost the council £612.

Days later, between April 2 and 4, there were 10 incidents in Warkton Lane, Kettering, which saw drivers compensated for damage to their cars. These cost the council £2,049.34.

Potholes file pic

Potholes file pic

Cllr Mick Scrimshaw (Lab, Northall) said: “The amount that’s been paid out is a huge amount on claims that wouldn’t have been paid out if they were repaired quickly.

“It makes you think they are doing it slower.

“In these cases the council is liable and they are liable because they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. That is a huge concern of mine.”

Many of the successful claims were for small amounts and are likely to have been for replacement tyres or minor vehicle repairs.

But some of the payouts were far from small.

One individual claim of £12,756.99 was successful - more than the entire amount the council paid out in the previous year - for damage caused by a pothole in Wootton Road, just outside Northampton, on October 5.

The Northants Telegraph asked the council what damage was caused and how long after the pothole was first reported to it that the incident took place.

The council said it would not go into detail on individual cases.

In the north of the county a number of costly claims were paid out.

The highest individual claim in East Northamptonshire related to damage caused by a pothole in Lowick Road, Aldwincle, in April 2018. A total of £1,579.83 was paid out.

Other big payouts related to incidents in Rushton Road, Rothwell (£1,265, April 2018), Lloyds Road, Corby (£756.25, April 2018) and Irthlingborough Road, Wellingborough (£740.79, August 2018).

More was paid out over claims relating to damage on roads in the Kettering borough than those in East Northants, Corby and Wellingborough combined.

To see every pothole payout in Corby, click here

To see every pothole payout in the borough of Kettering, click here

To see every pothole payout in East Northants, click here

To see every pothole payout in Wellingborough, click here

Cllr Scrimshaw said he was sure the increase in the number of successful claims was down to financial pressures.

The council’s failure to repair potholes quickly enough inevitably puts road safety at risk and road safety charity Brake said investment in road repairs is a must.

A charity spokesman said: “Ensuring that road surfaces are kept in a safe condition is vitally important, as poorly maintained roads can contribute to devastating crashes with potentially fatal consequences.

“For cyclists and motorcyclists this is particularly concerning because they are most at risk from potholes.

“Drivers can reduce the danger they face from serious road defects by staying well within the speed limit giving themselves extra time to react and safely avoid a defect.

“Investment in road repairs is a must to help prevent the huge cost to society of a serious crash.”

Cllr Scrimshaw regularly cycles on the county’s roads and said there was a danger to the public.

He said: “If cars go down those potholes it may be a new tyre or some suspension damage.

“I’m a cyclist. If I go down that pothole I could die.

“Clearly there is a danger to the public here.”

Cllr Stanbra added: “I don’t ride a motorbike or a bicycle but if I did I think I would be fearing for my safety because the roads are so bad.”

A county council spokesman said it is committed to maintining the quality of the county’s roads.

The spokesman said: “We constantly review and improve the process for inspecting enquiries, particularly repeat reports, and addressing defect enquiries.

“All insurance claims are assessed on a case by case basis.

“We are committed to maintaining the quality of the county’s roads and we carry out regular inspections to see what maintenance work needs to be carried out.”

The spokesman added that it is ‘not always possible to know why more claims are made in a particular period’ but that a particularly severe winter impacted on its ability to carry out repairs quickly.