Councils fork out £1.2million to motorists over pothole damage

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By Paul Thornton

SCOTLAND’S local authorities have paid out over £1.2m of tax payers’ cash to motorists because of potholes causing damage to cars in the last five years.

Over 12,000 drivers received payouts from councils because of the poor state of the country’s roads – an average of £100 each.

And – with some claims for that period still not resolved – cash strapped authorities have had to set aside a further £150k to cover payments that have yet to be agreed.

A tax payers’ group has blasted local authorities as “short-sighted” and say that fuel duty and road tax payments should be enough to ensure decent roads.

The AA blasted the state of Scotland’s roads as a “ridiculous vicious circle” which endangers vehicles and motorists themselves.Both organisations this week called for action to fix the underlying causes of potholes.

But the body who speaks for local authorities insists councils are the victims and the “compensation culture” of Scotland is crippling their budgets.

Some skint councils have had to cough-up over £100,000 EACH to compensate drivers. These include South Lanarkshire who paid £138,579 since 2003, Edinburgh City (134,724), Renfrewshire (£179,388) and Highlands (£157,134).

However some areas – mostly rural – have escaped with only small claims or even none at all.

Argyll and Bute paid just £210 this year while Orkney and Shetland both escaped without a single payment.

Aberdeen City Council have paid a modest £45,642 out since 2004 but have set aside a further £134,000 for unresolved claims while Perth and Kinross have earmarked almost £18k for future payouts.

Glasgow City Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council did not provide figures for their payments.

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the Tax Payers’ Alliance, said: “It is unacceptable that so many cars are being damaged due to bad road surfaces.

“People have to pay through the nose for their car tax and fuel duty, and in return for that they should be able to expect decent roads.

“It seems that some areas are simply cutting corners, and incurring huge compensation bills as a direct result – it’s a short-sighted policy.”

A spokesman for the Coalition of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said: “There is a problem in relation the state of Scotland’s roads and councils are the victims here.

“They are becoming victims of the compensation culture that prevails. Every pound spent on a compensation claim is a pound out of the budget for services.

“The motoring organisations say it will cost £1.2B to fix so there is no quick solution, it will take several years and lots of money.”

AA President, Edmund King added: “These figures show that once again the fabric of local Scottish roads is a major cause for concern with surfaces crumbling and drivers and riders at risk of damage to their vehicles and even themselves.

“We are in a vicious circle with potholes leading to compensation claims which mean there is less money to fix the problem properly.

“Ultimately we will all pay more through having to once again patch and mend, and then pay out compensation rather than fixing the underlying poor condition of many of our roads. “

Earlier this year Aberdeen City Council splashed out £140,000 on a jet-patcher to help fix the problem roads.

The patcher allows workers to fill in holes up to almost a foot deep and the repairs are quicker to do and last for longer than standard fixes.

The measure came after safety concerns were raised about potholes causing drivers to swerve in order to miss them.

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