‘We can’t fix all of the potholes’ – council

Schoolboy Blake Norton was flipped over his handlebars when a 'puddle' turned out to be a pothole.
Schoolboy Blake Norton was flipped over his handlebars when a 'puddle' turned out to be a pothole.

A new report from the RAC Foundation reveals Lincolnshire is Britain’s 13th worst for high numbers of drivers claiming compensation for pothole damage to cars.

Figures released by the independent motoring charity also show Lincolnshire County Council has become more tight-fisted and paid-up on just 55 per cent of the 568 claims made during the 2014-15 year, handing over a grand total of £42,784.

In 2013 a cyclist was fined �30 for riding on the pavement to avoid these potholes.

In 2013 a cyclist was fined �30 for riding on the pavement to avoid these potholes.

In 2012-13, some 1,127 motorists applied for compensation and the council shelled out in 91 per cent of those cases, handing over a staggering £161,199.

There were 917 claims in 2013-14 and the council paid 76 per cent with the overall bill coming to £94,725.

A county council spokesman told us: “I’m afraid we don’t have an explanation for the percentage pay out figure being lower now than it was three years ago.

“The process is still the same as it always has been and the proof that people need to give is also the same.”

Driver David Pentney with potholes described as "tank traps".

Driver David Pentney with potholes described as "tank traps".

Lincolnshire was given an extra £9million this year to tackle potholes but the council now says it would need a further £10million to keep the roads “in reasonable condition”.

The RAC Foundation compiled its report after 200 local authorities replied to questions.

Claims for pothole compensation nationally for 2014-15 totalled almost 29,000 – one every 18 minutes, 365 days a year – compared to the previous financial year when there were 48,945 claims, one every 11 minutes.

The national compensation bill totalled £2million while average individual settlements rose slightly from £286 to £294.

The RAC Foundation says fewer claims for compensation may simply mean that councils are successfully deterring drivers from jumping through the hoops to get cash for cars damaged on our potholed roads,

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “One reading of these figures is that local roads are in better condition than they were.

“But that does not square with councils’ own assessment that the road maintenance backlog is actually growing, not falling.

“It could instead be that many drivers are put off by the time involved in claiming against a council while councils themselves do their best to deter claimants coming forward.”

Mr Gooding said the condition of roads and pavements was regarded as the number one transport issue among voters in the last two general elections.

He said: “Better roads don’t just benefit car drivers.

“While potholes are an inconvenience for those on four wheels, they can be a matter of life or death for those on two.”

Early this year, an 11-year-old Holbeach Bank boy, Blake Norton, had a brush with death when he was flipped over the handlebars of his bicycle because he rode over a pothole that he thought was just a puddle.

His mum, Cheri, said afterwards: “Thank goodness the car behind him was far enough away to stop.”

At that time, Coun Richard Davies, the county council’s executive member for highways and transportation, said the Government had made an extra £9million available to boost Lincolnshire’s road maintenance budget to just over £31million for 2015-16.

He added: “We’ll ensure that the money is put to good use, and do all we can to keep the county’s roads in the best possible condition with the cash that’s available.”

In 2013 another Lincolnshire cyclist hit the headlines as she was fined £30 for riding on the pavement to avoid a potholed road described by residents as “a deathtrap”.

Coun Davies said this week: “Potholes are inevitable through wear and tear and periods of bad weather.

“We have repaired 95,000 potholes in the last year and we prioritise repairs by fixing the most dangerous ones first.

“Occasionally we have to make compensation payments, however, the last few years show a downward trend in the number of claims.

“This is due to a combination of efficient road maintenance and relatively mild winters.

“It isn’t a surprise that Lincolnshire features fairly high in this report for two reasons.

“Firstly we have 5,500 miles of roads to maintain – one of the longest road networks in the country.

“Secondly we don’t have enough money to maintain our roads and tackle potholes – we would need an extra £10m to keep everything in a reasonable condition.

“This makes it challenging to manage the expectation of local residents, but we will continue to lobby the Government through our MPs for the funding that Lincolnshire deserves.”

• The county council outlined steps people must take in order to claim for pothole damage.

“1 Customer will have to contact our customer service centre (CSC), online at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk or email customer_services@lincolnshire.gov.uk or tel 01522 782070 and specify that they wish to make a claim.

“2 CSC will forward the request to the divisional business support.

“3 Business support will send out a claim form with a standard letter explaining more about the process.

“4 On receipt, highways division send the claim form to the insurance section with a technical report for them to follow up appropriately.

“The claimant will be required to show that the highway in question has not been maintained appropriately in relation to its importance and use.”

Previously ...

‘My son could have died when he hit pothole’

More cash to fix potholes as area sets its wishlist