THE number of motorists claiming compensation after hitting a pothole on Edinburgh’s roads has soared as figures today showed the city has paid out an average of almost £40,000 a year.
A new legal claim is now made against the city council every day for damage caused by potholes in the city.
The 379 claims made in the last year was 71 per cent ahead of the equivalent figure for a year earlier, though the city council pointed to the problems caused by severe winter weather to explain the rise. Transport chiefs also insist investment in the city’s road network is increasing.
Opposition politicians and motoring groups, however, were quick to seize on the figures as evidence of the deteriorating state of the city’s streets.
Nigel Humphries, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said: “If they thought less about obstructing motorists and making life more difficult for them and more about keeping infrastructure in good condition then this would not be happening.
“It is hardly surprising that people pursue claims when the council’s attitude is about getting as much as they can from motorists through things like parking fines and tickets.
“People get very angry if their car drops into a pothole and their wheels smash because they are so deep. People expect roads to be clear then suddenly crash bang they fall into a hole that should not be there.
“A severe winter makes it worse but they seem to have plenty to spend on road humps and such like so they should find money to deal with potholes.”
Some 66 of the claims this year have already been successful, resulting in a £14,565 cost to the council – with many of the cases still to be settled. It comes as new figures today showed that over the past five years, the city council has handed over £188,331 to motorists. On average, each successful claim costs the council around £220.
The 379 claims in the year to the end of September 2011 compares with 221 in 2009-10, 178 in 2008-09 and 266 in 2007-08.
Tory councillor Jason Rust, who represents the Colinton/Fairmilehead ward, said: “An ever-increasing complaint of both car users and cyclists at my surgeries has been the number of potholes in Edinburgh’s roads. This upward trend should be a cause of real concern for the council. Often the temporary repairs which take place last no time at all and the recent bad winters have obviously made the problem even worse.”
Last year, severe weather over the winter resulted in many of Edinburgh’s roads crumbling. The damage was so bad that in some cases police had to be called in to help drivers negotiate their way around potholes.
Despite the spike in claims, the city council insists that the Capital’s roads are improving.
Since 2007, £72.1m has been spent on upgrades to roads and pavements, compared with only £37.1m in the four years before 2007.
Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said: “The last two winters have resulted in an increase in potholes. We put an additional £7m into the budget, brought in additional contractors to help clear the backlog of repairs and we have been carrying a programme of permanent repairs throughout the city.
“This has enabled us to maintain the improvements we have already made through increasing our spend on roads in recent years. However, there is still work to do and our investment will continue.”