Sharp rise in pothole compensation claims in London

Image caption,
Across London, road damage compensation claims against councils rose from to 3,646 in 2009-10

Road damage compensation claims made against London councils increased by more than 37% over a three-year period, BBC research has revealed.

The BBC asked London councils about road damage compensation claims they had received since 2007.

More than 9,000 claims were made against London councils about damaged vehicles between 2007 and 2010.

The Conservative-run Barnet Council was the local authority with the most claims made against it.

It dealt with 838 claims over three years at a cost to the council of £314,275.

The borough saw a sharp rise in compensation claims during 2009-10, with a total of 609 claims that year.

This was an increase of 492 claims compared with 2008-09.

Across London, road damage compensation claims against councils rose from 2,664 in 2007-08 to 3,646 in 2009-10.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC, Barnet council said the huge increase in claims in 2009-10 was due to the number of potholes that formed during "extreme" weather conditions in December 2009.

'Potential dangers'

The leader of the council's Labour group, Alison Moore, blamed "a combination of several years of neglect and apparently bad maintenance work".

"There are potholes opening up all over Barnet at the moment," she said.

"That creates a danger in two ways - damage to vehicles, and driving to evade potholes creating potential dangers to road users.

"Barnet's transport department has been something of a shambles over the last few years," she added.

"It's quite clear it hasn't been well managed.

"Residents across Barnet will expect Brian Coleman (the council's cabinet member for transport) to sort out the potholes in their roads."

A council spokeswoman said: "As one of the largest local authorities in the country geographically, Barnet has a substantial number of highways spanning more than 725km, including several major arterial routes.

"Therefore it stands to reason that the council will have one of London's highest number of road insurance claims."

Damaged surfaces

Meanwhile Graeme Jones, from the London branch of the Motorcycle Action Group, said: "Councils appear to have no control over this very foreseeable danger which could be avoided.

Image caption,
The BBC has contacted every council across England as part of its Road Ahead research

"Potholes have the ability to put cyclists straight onto the road, under the wheels of a bus or truck.

"More money could be spent on potholes, preventing serious accidents."

A council spokesman said: "We will be dealing with repairs as and when reports of damaged road surfaces are received.

"When reports do come in, we aim to carry out the necessary work within 48 hours.

"While we react to the various reports we receive, officers will continue with the routine cyclic inspections of roads and footpaths and will be proactive in identifying, on a daily basis, further defects requiring attention."

Last week, the government said it would be putting aside £100m for councils to bid for if they felt they had a particularly bad problem with potholes.

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