Councils in East Anglia paid out more than £4m in compensation - including £1.5m to a care worker in Norfolk
06:30 21 January 2016
Archant Norfolk 2015
More than £4m has been paid out following compensation claims against councils in East Anglia, it is revealed today.
Details show that authorities settled cases ranging from personal injury to damage caused by potholes, resulting in a cost to taxpayers.
Figures for the last two years were obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), and show:
•The highest single payout was almost £1.5m by Norfolk County Council
•Potholes resulted in more than 100 payouts
Windows, chips and nettles all cost councils money
Here are some examples of the payouts made:
Employee detained against own will – Wirral Metropolitan Council – £5,000 – 2013-14
Hit in face – Calderdale – £2,500 – 2013-14
Misplaced reading glasses – Calderdale –£65 – 2013-14
Walked into open window – Birmingham City Council – £2,360 – 2013-14
Slipped due to sand on astro-turf – Birmingham City Council – £275 – 2013-14
Claimant was riding his bicycle on the footpath and his face came into contact with stinging nettles – Newport Council – £375 – 2014-15
Window smashed by flying section of tree branch fired from tree cutting machine – Barnsley – £105 – 2013-14
Claimant caught foot in a pothole but managed to regain balance so did not fall but sustained injuries – Cheshire West and Chester – £3,750 – 2013-14
Claimant splashed in face with hot tar – Nottinghamshire County Council – £1,000 – 2014-15
Horseplay – Wiltshire Council – £393 – 2013-14
The 10 types of claims which resulted in the highest amount paid out nationally related to: 1. Potholes; 2. vehicle damage; 3. trees; 4. falls; 5. abuse; 6. mowers; 7. motors; 8. injuries; 9. chips; 10. stress.
The London Borough with the most paid out was Lambeth with £5,264,071; outside the capital, the highest was Manchester City Council with £5,119,419.
Nettles were the cause of a £275 payout by Newport Council after a cyclist was stung on the face.
•Claims for trips on uneven paths and in unlit areas
•A total of more than £4m paid out by 10 councils in East Anglia in 2013-15
It comes at a time when local authorities are under greater pressure than ever to cut services, with national funding reduced by millions of pounds but demand rising.
If a payout is covered by insurance, this will be reflected in higher premiums and greater cost to the taxpayer.
While it is almost inevitable that councils will face compensation claims, as they have a high amount of public interaction, the TPA has argued that many are avoidable.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The compensation culture is costing taxpayers dear and every pound spent on settlements or higher insurance premiums is a pound that isn’t spent on essential services such as road maintenance or social care.
“Of course, some of the payments made by councils will be entirely justified, as the most serious accidents can change lives.
“But in many cases, local authorities and their staff will be failing to live up to the standards required of them by law or paying out on frivolous claims too easily.
“Councils must do everything they can to ensure their mistakes and negligence don’t result in such large bills for hard-pressed taxpayers - and take appropriate action against staff whose actions result in costly claims.
“We must also root out those who are playing the system with spurious demands for taxpayers’ cash.”
The highest payment, of £1,475,000, was made by Norfolk County Council to a care worker for “manual handling”, and a spokesman said it was settled in 2012. Data included claims settled before 2013-15, but files were not formally closed until then, the spokesman added.
While the TPA data shows Norfolk County Council as having paid out £3,474,123 - the highest of any county council - the spokesman said the total for claims received and settled in the two-year period was actually £583,821.
Spokesmen for Breckland District Council, Broadland District Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, North Norfolk District Council, South Norfolk Council and Suffolk County Council said the authorities acted responsibly.
Norwich City Council, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council and Fenland District Council had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to print.