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Pothole claims against Shropshire Council rise by 186 per cent

By Jordan Reynolds | Transport | Published:

Pothole claims to Shropshire Council rose by 186 per cent last year compared to the year before.

The rise has been blamed on the harsh winter, with heavy snowfall over prolonged periods of time.

During the year 2017/18, there were 502 pothole claims against the authority in total, compared to 175 in the year 2016/17 and 249 in 2015/16.

Of the 502 pothole claims, a liability decision has been reached on 114 of these, of which 106 have been rejected. The council would have had to pay about £159,000 if the claims were accepted.

A report, which went to the authority's audit committee on Thursday, says: "The harsh winter caused problems on the council’s network and this saw a large increase in the number of pothole claims.

"The main reason that we are able to successfully defend pothole claims is because there is a defence under the Highways Act - we can demonstrate that we have an adequate system of inspection in place, or we had no knowledge of the defect prior to the incident (but took action as soon as we were put on notice).

"Due to the extreme weather conditions, it was recognised early by highways managers that the usual inspection and repair regime would not be possible and a temporary winter maintenance policy was introduced. This allowed resources to be focused on key routes where the greatest risk was identified."

Injuries

But seven of the claims were accepted and the council expects it will have to pay about £14,000.

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The 502 were part of a total of 745 claims throughout the year, 55 of which relate to previous years, some as far back as the 60s and 70s.

Other claims range from injuries in the workplace, motor claims resulting from the council's drivers hitting another vehicle, storm damage, and abuse.

Angela Beechey, risk and insurance manager, told the committee that all councils are currently facing the same problem.

She said: "If we don't have a legal defence we will pay the claim promptly, but where we do have a legal defence to defend that claim we will do.

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"We had 502 claims up until March and we've obviously had more since then.

"We needed to risk assess the roads and how we repair them.

"There is a recognition that it is not just Shropshire that is has happened to, it's country-wide."

Ms Beechey added that the council currently has claims worth £4.7 million open in total.

She said: "We have 418 open claims altogether, worth £4.7 million if they were to be won.

"The majority of claims are low value but we do have some larger claims, but we have no catastrophic claims at the moment.

"Three cases went to court but we were able to successfully defeat them.

"168 claims are currently under investigation, and some of these are quite high value claims, one relating to a trip, which is about £45,000."

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Reporter for the Shropshire Star covering Shrewsbury and the surrounding areas.

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