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Soaring payouts for cars damaged by Suffolk potholes revealed

PUBLISHED: 05:30 13 November 2018 | UPDATED: 06:30 13 November 2018

Pothole payouts by Suffolk HIghways has cost tens of thousands of pounds Picture: ARCHANT

Pothole payouts by Suffolk HIghways has cost tens of thousands of pounds Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Insurance payouts for vehicle damage caused by potholes in Suffolk has soared by more than double in the last year, shock new figures have revealed.

Data revealed under Freedom of Information laws for payouts by Suffolk Highways after pothole-induced damage on Suffolk's roads Picture: ARCHANT/INFOGRAMData revealed under Freedom of Information laws for payouts by Suffolk Highways after pothole-induced damage on Suffolk's roads Picture: ARCHANT/INFOGRAM

Data published under Freedom of Information laws showed that between January 1 and October 16 this year Suffolk Highways had paid out £67,819.07 in costs, which included the insurance pay out, costs and legal fees – up from £26,004.63 for 2017.

The number of claims had also doubled from 598 in 2017 to 1,265 so far in 2018 – with 192 claims still not having been resolved.

A Suffolk Highways spokesman said the harsh sustained winter that hit earlier in the year had taken its toll.

“The increase in highway related third party claims in 2018 is likely due to the cold and sustained winter and it is expected that this increase will be replicated nationally,” the spokesman said.

Suffolk Highways said the harsh winter had hit the county's roads hard Picture: ARCHANTSuffolk Highways said the harsh winter had hit the county's roads hard Picture: ARCHANT

“At this time, Suffolk Highways does not know what proportion of these claims will be successfully defended or the cost of those that will be settled.

“Roads are constantly deteriorating through general wear and tear and the detrimental impacts of winter weather.”

The highways team said its annual road conditioning statistics showed it was keeping up with the deterioration on the roads, but the cold snap of water freezing and thawing had opened up more potholes than normal.

It prompted the council to carry out a purge on the county’s roads throughout the spring, including carrying out many temporary repairs.

Labour transport spokesman Jack Owen said better maintenance would have stopped a needless expense Picture: SUFFOLK LABOUR GROUPLabour transport spokesman Jack Owen said better maintenance would have stopped a needless expense Picture: SUFFOLK LABOUR GROUP

Jack Owen, Labour highways spokesman at the county council, said the repairs were “too little too late” and were an “avoidable cost” for Suffolk taxpayers.

“The figures come as no great surprise, the Labour group have been warning about the consequence of not fixing pot holes for years,” he said.

“The fact that there are more than double the number of claims in 2018 that than the whole of 2017 is shocking.

“If they had undertaken the road repairs when they were needed, rather than ignore the problems; if they had done permanent fixes that would last many years; and if they had looked after the roads in winter properly none of this would have happened. This administration simply has no idea what it is doing.”

The number of claims made to Suffolk HIghways for vehicle damage caused by potholes Picture: ARCHANT/INFOGRAMThe number of claims made to Suffolk HIghways for vehicle damage caused by potholes Picture: ARCHANT/INFOGRAM

In June, Conservative cabinet member for Highways Mary Evans launched a review of all areas of highways activity in a bid to improve the service, which included repair of potholes.

A new pilot was launched in Ipswich last month which aims to tackle more potholes at once and cut the number of temporary fixes used.

The size of potholes have also been reduced from 400mm diameter to 200m diameter before action can be taken.

The trial is due to run until April 2019, and if successful could be rolled out further.

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