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Revealed: Rise in insurance claims against Suffolk County Council due to defective roads

Potholes in Ashdown Way, Ipswich.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Potholes in Ashdown Way, Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk County Council has seen a significant rise in insurance claims due to defective road surfaces over the last five years, new figures reveal.

Potholes in Stratford Road. Picture: GREGG BROWN Potholes in Stratford Road. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The authority has paid out more than £225,000 in damages and legal fees in that period because of incidents relating to road surface problems such as pot-holes.

Figures to be discussed by the council on Thursday reveal it received 363 claims in 2013 – increasing to 647 last year.

There have been a total of 2,239 in the last five years, however the council has successfully defended most of these, turning over almost 85%.

Jane Storey, cabinet member for highways, transport and rural issues, said the council was only held responsible if it had been given enough time to fix the road after being made aware of the problem.

Cllr Jane Storey.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Cllr Jane Storey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

She said: “The Highways Maintenance Operational plan has criteria for how many days we have to repair roads.

“If we have repaired the road within the time limit then these claims would generally be turned over.”

The number of successful claims against the council has also risen.

The claims include a payout of £16,078 for an injury due to surface carriageway defect in Barnby in 2015 and as yet undecided claims of £25,000 for an injury in Stowmarket in 2016 and a £21,500 claim for an injury in Bardwell.

Suffolk County Council's Opposition spokesman for roads Jack Owen. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY Suffolk County Council's Opposition spokesman for roads Jack Owen. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Mrs Storey added the council would be lobbying for extra money from the Government to pay for repairing the road network.

She added that the recent cold weather and sub-zero temperatures would have deteriorated the condition of the roads.

She said: “That is what you tend to get when you have snow like this.

“There is no doubt the severe weather is affecting the roads but we have to wait and see the full impact.

“Last time we had this type of severe weather like this, in 2012/13, central government gave an extra grant so we will now be lobbying for something along those lines.

“We have already borrowed extra money to do pot-holes and road resurfacing.”

In January, Suffolk County Council applied for a £21million loan to resurface 1,000 miles (1,609 km) of roads in the county by March 2021.

Suffolk County Council’s opposition spokesman for highways and transport said it was ‘unbelievable’ how much the council had paid out in claims due to poor road conditions.

Labour councillor Jack Owen said: “I am shocked. It is unbelievable.

“That money could have gone towards repairing the roads in the first place.

“When you look around Suffolk, the roads are really breaking up.”

He urged residents to report potholes and poor road surfaces to the council as soon as possible to start the countdown on when repairs must be made.

“The important thing is if you see a pothole report it and bring it to their attention.

“If the council do not react to it within a certain time, they could be liable to pay compensation.”

To report potholes to Suffolk County Council, visit this website.

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