THE NUMBER of drivers who complained to councils about pothole damage to their cars surged to 50,000 last year, a rise of five 5% on 2013, yet total payouts fell by £1m.
Councils turned down most claims, stumping up in fewer than a quarter of cases. The total fund of £3.2m of compensation was revealed by the RAC Foundation, a charity that researches road use and driver habits.
Nationwide, the foundation pointed out, a claim was made every 11 minutes; Surrey was the worst pothole offender, with 3,912 claims, followed by Essex, with 2,548, and Kent, with 2,321. Council generosity, however, varied widely: Surrey paid out in 21.5% of cases, whereas Essex settled just 3.8% and Kent 9.7%. Some councils, such as Bolton, were much more driver-friendly, settling 85.6% of claims.
Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said the figures were likely to be the tip of the iceberg: “Many drivers will be put off by the time involved in claiming against a council, and many councils do their best to deter claimants from 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, it is simply not giving councils enough money to keep their road networks up to scratch.”
The Department for Transport told The Times that the government had increased spending on roads by £1bn from Labour government levels.