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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

Uneven pavements have resulted in compensation claims. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Uneven pavements have resulted in compensation claims. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

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.

15 comments

  • RobD - just my opinion but yes there is a big difference in claiming for genuine damage caused by driving over a pothole (because it is likely to be unavoidable as you may only see it at the last second and changing the path of your vehicle may not be an option as it may be into the path of an oncoming car). But blaming the council for tripping over a paving slab is wrong because it is the pedestrian's own responsibility to look where they are going. A broken paving slab doesn't appear from nowhere like a pothole. Look in front of your nose and if you fall over, it is your fault. (And yes, I have fallen over a paving stone and it was my fault).

    Report this comment

    Johny

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • What do you expect from the David White years as NCC CEO? Children's Services in meltdown; staff left the organisation like lemmings. Now this. Here is the man who invented a non-existent telephone conversation with former leader Murphy when latter began digging too deeply into his antics which included an all expenses paid conference trip to San Francisco, USA. All on £239 000 a year. For those of an inquisitive frame of mind FOI the Chief Executive's Office Budget for 2009-2013. £ 2 and a half million a year spent on what? And the unauthorised trips, all expenses paid to work for NHS in a moonlighting capacity. Suggest you read Private Eye

    Report this comment

    Norfolcia

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • Johny, so what's the difference between somewhere driving over a pothole and tripping over a loose or broken paving slab, you seem to indicate one is okay to claim for but the other is the pedestrian's own fault ? The council has a budget specifically for highway repairs which cannot be used for other purposes, and which has been reduced due to government cuts, I agree that people should take responsibility for their actions but it's not as simple as "looking where you're going" - what about blind and visually impaired people, what about when it's pitch black as all the street lights have now been turned off ? If councils have been alerted to specific problems which they are responsible for e.g. endemic illegal pavement parking which causes a lot of damage to footpaths and costs a huge amount to repair, as well as making them dangerous to walk on with all the broken and uneven slabs, but refuse to take action to enforce these offences, then people are going to claim for injuries resulting from this failure to act.

    Report this comment

    RobD

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • ambulance chasing solicitors, but i am advised these solicitors are rapidly going to the wall as insurance companies are at last standing up to them and not before time.

    Report this comment

    ted

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • RobD, On the other hand if people looked where they were going, they wouldn't trip over in the first place. People increasingly want to blame others for an accident that was there own fault (especially if there is money to be made).

    Report this comment

    Johny

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • One of those payouts went to me ... . Myself and two others were paid around £350,000 not including legal fees, because of Norwich City Council's incompetence.. we became ill because they fail in their duty. I have been robbed of a pension and my health...

    Report this comment

    Snuggs

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • It's a bit ironic that the same people who usually blame Norwich City Council or Norfolk County Council for everything under the sun, now blame a "compensation culture" when it comes to them paying out for their failure to act, for example, if the council doesn't enforce the endemic number of pavement parking offences which cause so much damage to footpaths and cost a huge amount to repair, they can pay out when somebody trips and injures themselves on the broken and uneven paving slabs as a result.

    Report this comment

    RobD

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • So the £1.5 million (not a sum likely paid out in error, or for quick settlement of other than a serious case) was actually paid in 2012. In which case, the headline should actually read "Councils in East Anglia paid out £2.5 m in compensation". Why an editor let that pass? Why did the journalist write it in first case. The TPA themselves have updated their data table to note this. And the TPA's data lacks responses from around 40 councils who didn't provide data or didn't have it by year.

    Report this comment

    G_of_Norwich

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • What a sad reflection of society that it panders to what are nothing more than a bunch of spivs out to sponge off the rest of us.

    Report this comment

    Green Ink from Tunbridge Wells

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • If the council used it's highway budget to do the basics i.e filling in potholes rather than some of the crazy and wasteful schemes we have seen of late, that would solve the problem of claims for pothole damage. I agree with other postings here, it is time that people took responsibility for their own actions. If you trip over a loose paving slab it is your fault. Look at where you are going ! How many of us receive unsolicited calls from companies offering to pursue compensation for 'the accident we had last year' when we didn't even have an accident. There are too many opportunists who simply want to make an easy buck rather than work for their money !

    Report this comment

    Johny

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • …..I have reported the state of the footpath in Hammond Way, Sprowston to the Town Council on numerous occasions!.... As this is an outpost,(2miles away from HQ), no action is taken and it is swept under the carpet to make way for more important schemes!….rejuvenating 'The Diamond Centre'!….A new cycle system is being put into place running alongside, costing a penny or two!….There is no fear of cyclists using the footpath in it's current state ...it's far too dangerous….suitable only for aged people with walking aids...the vast majority in this area!…..

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • It may be our money but why shouldn't councils have to pay out if they don't get it right? If it was a private company involved they would have to pay out. If councils spent a little more on quality control of projects we pay for and tabs on our crumbling infrastructure then maybe the claims would be fewer. As they might be if responsible officers got penalty points for failures . Or if parish councils were expected to file reports on the state of the infrastructure in their area-rather than leaving it to the public to complain. if there was money to spend on an airfield or money to spend on golf courses there should be money for potholes cats eyes and white lines.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • It is unfortunate that people in todays society always seek to blame someone else for their own actions and lack of care. Whether it is walking into something or tripping over – open your eyes and take responsibility for your own actions.

    Report this comment

    Voice of Reason

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • "“Councils must do everything they can to ensure their mistakes and negligence don’t result in such large bills for hard-pressed taxpayers".....part of the problem is said councils do not receive enough funding for these services....cut highway maintenance an dyou will get more potholes and claims....but its easy for central government to cut norfolks funding and let them take the flak.

    Report this comment

    Stephen Strange

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • The trouble nowadays it's a compensation culture if someone trips over it's always someone else's fault,most of the time a case of not looking where the going.You also seem to get a few people now looking as a means for making a fast buck fuelled by accident claim companies plying their trade everywhere.

    Report this comment

    stoneman

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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