Council ‘damaged van’ but won’t pay for repairs

Gavin Cowan says he has been left out of pocket after getting the headlights on his van repaired. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Gavin Cowan says he has been left out of pocket after getting the headlights on his van repaired. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A SELF-employed trader has been left outraged and out of pocket after council workers damaged his business van only for the local authority to refuse to pay for repairs.

Corstorphine resident Gavin Cowan, who runs a part-time pressure washing business, was carrying out a job at a property in Duddingston on May 8 when the incident ­occurred.

The 36-year-old had parked his Citroen Dispatch van legally on Mountcastle Drive South for several hours and was washing a customer’s driveway when council workers arrived to cut the verge grass nearby and accidentally broke the vehicle’s headlights in the process.

Mr Cowan said the workers had accepted fault at the time, with the businessman paying more than £200 to fix the damage and guarantee his van was roadworthy while he waited for an official response.

He was left stunned when the council’s insurer, Gallagher Bassett, wrote to the trademsan in July saying he would have to prove the authority was at fault to get any form of compensation.

On the original incident, Mr Cowan said: “Between the kerb and pavement is a section of grass, maybe a couple of feet wide. I was washing away the drive and the council workers came along to cut that section of grass.

“As they were cutting the grass, I heard a smash. I went out to investigate and what had happened was there was a bolt, about four or five inches long, that had either come off the machine or had been in the grass and had been thrown up by the machine.

“It had smashed the headlights of my van. He [the council worker] was fine and gave me all his manager’s details. He as good as said he was at fault and that these things happen.”

Instead, ­Gallagher Bassett says Mr Cowan must prove the council did not “take reasonable care, broke a contract or did not ­follow a written law”.

A statement said: “Before the council started cutting the grass in the area, a check was made and all obvious debris removed. Appropriate guards are fitted to the grass cutter. However, it cannot be guaranteed that the machine will not occasionally throw out debris. The council have taken all reasonable steps to minimise this happening and therefore have not been at fault.”

Mr Cowan said one of the council’s managers had even tried to get the insurer’s determination overturned, but returned last month to say his efforts had been unsuccessful.

The perplexed tradesman said: “I can’t see how in this case they couldn’t pay the cost. I’m not going to let it lie.”

A council spokesman said: “Claims against us are dealt with by our insurers and this is a matter for them.”

£3m PAID OUT IN COMPENSATION

COMPENSATION claims brought against Edinburgh City Council are not uncommon.

The Evening News told last month how marketing executive Julian Young had vowed to take the authority to the small claims court for wasting his time after repeatedly being hit with parking fines despite correctly paying for tickets using the mobile RingGo system.

The trams and other city improvement works have also prompted legal bids. Newington Traditional Fish Bar owner Bill Bowles is seeking damages, claiming his store has been financially crippled by scaffolding that obscured the shop front for eight months.

The council paid out more than £3 million in compensation from 2007-2012. The majority of claims have involved vehicle accidents, trips on pavements and council housing problems, although one related to a firework blowing up in a person’s hand.