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Road to ruin! County council pays out £666,000 in compensation to motorists hitting potholes… with claims up more than 35%

The number of compensation claims from Lincolnshire motorists after hitting potholes has jumped by a third in the last year, with the county council paying out at an average £175 per claim in 2023.

A Freedom of Information request to Lincolnshire County Council has revealed an upward trend in both requests for compensation, and money given to road users impacted by pothole-related damage in the county.

Last year, Lincolnshire County Council paid out £666,319.37 in compensation for people whose vehicles were damaged by incidents involving potholes, which is a 36% increase on 2022’s total of £489,867.

LCC paid out more than £650,000 in compensation to motorists who struck potholes. Photo: James Turner
LCC paid out more than £650,000 in compensation to motorists who struck potholes. Photo: James Turner

Collectively, this means more than £1.15 million has been spent by the county council on this issue over the last two years, and over £4 million since the start of 2018.

To put the numbers of the last two years into context, it is the equivalent of 732 annual council tax bills for Band D property residents in Lincolnshire, as per the 2024/25 county council budget.

However, the county council pointed out that some of these requests can roll over across multiple years, and don’t always relate to cases that year.

Karen Cassar, assistant director for highways at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “What these totals include are a culmination of many claims that have been in process for, in some cases, a number of years.

“Through the correct legal protocols some of the claims can carry on over an extended period, meaning that they reach across long time spans, in some cases these can be going back a decade.

“When they are concluded, the figure is included in the year of payout.”

As many as 17,871 new pothole-related enquiries were made in Lincolnshire in 2023, and 1,780 requests for compensation were also made by motorists.

This is 33% higher than in 2022, but the success rate of these is on a downward trajectory. 475 claims were successful in 2022, compared to 319 in 2023 — a 32% reduction.

This is mirrored by the financial sums relating to repudiated and settled claims in that year. In 2023 the sum of damages paid out by the council for these incidents was £56,726.94, down from £63,675.30 the year previous. This works out at around £175 per payout in 2023.

The council argued that this success rate and repudiation is the “more accurate figure,” with rejected cases increasing from 849 in 2022, to 1,146 in 2023.

The financial element of this creates a fresh headache for Lincolnshire County Council each year, as it seeks to battle what it calls a gap in government funding for its highways budget.

The council has long warned of the implications of cuts to the roads maintenance budget, which was slashed by 25% from £51 million to £39 million in 2021, saying it could result in tens of thousands of unfilled potholes on our county’s roads.

Now, that prediction appears to be coming true. The 2024/25 LCC budget allocated an additional £2.5 million for highways compared to last year, and the council pledged to fix around 110,500 potholes in the county with the £19 million in this year’s roads maintenance pot.

However, earlier this year the county council’s Highways Assets lead, Richard Fenwick, estimated that Lincolnshire would need around £40 million a year extra funding from the government to clear the pothole backlog plaguing the county.

Of the almost 18,000 pothole reports in 2023, 75% of them were completed fully, and 14% were considered to require no further action from the county council highways team.

The council pointed out in its FOI response that some enquiries may be duplicated, with multiple people reporting the same pothole being treated as separate enquiries, and equally one report could have mentioned multiple potholes, despite being considered only as an individual report on the council’s database.

Highways assistant director Karen Cassar added: “As the Highways authority, we are doing everything that we can to maintain the roads to an acceptable standard and the drop in claim cases paid out over the last few years shows that, while we have work still to do, we are moving in the right direction.”

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