Edinburgh Council pays £800k in compensation over trips in street

Cracked pavements have cost the council nearly �800k in compensation pay-outs after people have tripped and injured themselves. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Cracked pavements have cost the council nearly �800k in compensation pay-outs after people have tripped and injured themselves. Picture: Ian Georgeson

ALMOST £800,000 has been dished out by the council in compensation for trips on the Capital’s pavements in the last five years, new figures reveal.

From 2012-16, payouts totalling £793,005 were awarded in relation to 78 claims from people tripping up on pavements.

Compensation has been paid out in 78 claims

Compensation has been paid out in 78 claims

It marks two-fifths of the total £1,958,264 handed out from the council’s coffers over the same period, with the compensation also covering cycle and grass-cutting claims.

The data, released under Freedom of Information laws, shows four pavement trip claims were settled in 2016, compared to 14 the previous year.

However, the 2016 number is only understood to be lower as a result of some claims having not yet been fully processed.

Council chiefs yesterday defended their investment in roads and pavements, but critics hit back amid claims that more needs to be done to tackle the issue.

Lesley Macinnes SNP candidate fir Liberton/Gilmerton

Lesley Macinnes SNP candidate fir Liberton/Gilmerton

Nick Cook, the Tories’ transport spokesman on the council, said: “It is astounding that the council has had to fork out nearly £1 million of public money in compensation as a result of its failure to properly maintain city pavements.

“Edinburgh taxpayers will be appalled at these figures which highlight the effect the council’s maintenance failures are having on public safety.

“Unfortunately the figures demonstrate, yet again, that while the council may talk the talk on road and pavement repairs, it fails to walk the walk.

“Clearly additional funding alone will not solve this issue. The council should be prepared to review the tending process for road and pavement repairs to help ensure better quality, more efficient repairs.”

Conservative councillor Nick Cook

Conservative councillor Nick Cook

In his own Morningside constituency, Cllr Cook pointed to streets in Abbotsford Park as a particularly bad spot when it came to the pavement upkeep and the standard of repairs.

But transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes said the council was committed to maintaining Edinburgh’s roads and pavements to the highest possible standard.

She said: “The council strives to make Edinburgh’s roads and pavements as well-maintained, safe and accessible as possible for everyone who lives, visits or works here.

“We invest many millions of pounds improving the network each year and we keep the condition of pavements and roads across the city under constant review, so that funds can be allocated for repairs through a detailed priority assessment system.”

The figures have now prompted a fresh call from road safety campaigners for investment in the Capital’s roads and 
pavements.

Stuart Hay, director of Living Streets Scotland, said: “More needs to be done to improve our streets and prevent further damage to them.

“This is why it is so important that we have clearer parking laws to prevent people from parking on the pavements. Parking on pavements causes them to crack and is costly to fix. It’s also dangerous to those in wheelchairs, with buggies or living with sight loss.

“Well-maintained footways will save money by reducing compensation pay-outs, plus by encouraging people to get active and walk more we will help reduce the financial burden on health services and boost the 
local economy.”

In addition to payouts over trips, the figures show £1577 was paid out over seven grass-cutting claims in 2012-13. No further payments have been settled from 2014. The total compensation awarded to cyclists over the five-year period came in at £41,066 across 18 claims.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said some of the payouts would be “entirely justified” due to the impact serious accidents can have on people’s lives.

However, he said it was also vital that local authorities did everything in their power “to ensure their mistakes and negligence aren’t resulting in such large bills while rooting out those who are playing the system with spurious demands for taxpayers’ cash”.

He added: “The easiest way for any council to avoid paying compensation is to make sure that the pavements are fit for purpose in the first place – that means cutting out wasteful spending in their budgets and focusing money towards their maintenance.”

Serious injury specialists Thompsons Scotland said at the time that they had dealt with a number of claims in relation to both streets.

Jayne Crawford, a partner at Thompsons, previously told the News there were “multiple areas” across the city where there was potential for someone to hurt themselves.

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk