Lancashire road compensation payouts hit £1.3m record high

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Highways chiefs last year paid out more than a million pounds in compensation to drivers and pedestrians on Lancashire’s crumbling roads.

Trips on pavements and slips in potholes cost County Hall more than £1.3m in a single year - the highest for five years.

An additional £49,000 was paid out in compensation to motorists struck by ‘road defects’ in the county.

The figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

And the cold weather is likely to lead to yet more problems on Lancashire’s roads - as heavy frost leaves behind gaping holes.

Today, the county’s highways chief Tim Ashton said trips and falls on pavements made up a majority of the payouts, while potholes accounted for much less.

He said: “It is trips on pavements which is the big one. It is something I’m looking at with my officers to see if we can reduce it.

“It could mean more Tarmac than paving stones on the pavements which some people don’t like, but it may be a price we have to pay.”

He said the increase in payouts was down to the recession, a growing compensation culture and an increase in no win, no fee companies.

In 2011, £47,304 was paid to drivers and just over £1m to pedestrians. In 2008 the payments were just £31,598 and £368,888 respectively.

Meanwhile, County council leader Geoff Driver told the annual meeting of Ribble Valley’s Conservatives recently that his administration had doubled spending on roads to try and reduce potholes.

He added: “We have spent £200m on our roads over four years, twice as much as the previous Labour administration spent in the previous four years.

“Potholes are now being filled by a machine putting hot tarmac into it and then smoothing it down. This is an ongoing process we accept that 20 years of neglect cannot be rectified overnight.”

Coun Bill Winlow, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat party, said: “There is a lot of money being spent on filling up pot holes, but no matter what we do it is still very hard to get them all done.

“We will have to carry on pouring money into potholes, and I think it’s down to the lack of maintenance by the previous administration.

“Let’s be fair, the weather has been terribly cold, and everything that was going to go has gone.

“With so many roads of roads in Lancashire, it is a never ending task.”

Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of the council’s Labour party, said: “I think it is absolutely disgraceful.

“One of their projected savings was in compensation payouts, and that has actually risen, not fallen.

“The weather has been bad, but they have always prided themselves on how much they spend on roads.

“I would like to see potholes filled in correctly first time, every time.”

Roger Lawson, spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers, says potholes are not just a winter problem.

He said: “Typically there is a particular problem after severe weather because severe frosts tend to break up the road surfaces and then people drive over them and it comes apart.

“It does often take councils time to repair damage after heavy frost but this is not just a winter problem, this is a problem that has been getting worse and worse at all times of the year now. Potholes are not just there after a bad bout of weather, they’re being created all the time.”