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Kent County Council compensation payouts for potholes

By Paul Francis

Nearly a third of pothole compensation claims from motorists have been rejected by Kent County Council in two years - on the grounds the authority was planning to repair the roads in the future.

The authority has used a legal loophole that permits it to dismiss claims made by motorists whose cars have been damaged by defective roads on the grounds that they are scheduled for repair "within reasonable time".

The existence of the loophole was uncovered by the KM Group last year.

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Now, new figures provided under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that of 995 claims in the last two years 342 - just under a third - have been turned down by Kent County Council on these grounds.

In 2016-17, the council had 790 claims from motorists for pothole damage, of which 237 of the overall total of 690 rejected were because they happened on roads where repairs were scheduled.

In 2017-18, there have to date been 527 claims of which 105 have been dismissed for the same reason. In total, 305 of the 527 claims were rejected and just 24 were upheld.

The ability of councils to argue they are not liable centres on them being able to show they have a system in place for regular road inspections and repairs.

Figures also show that the the amounts paid out in compensation over the two years have fallen dramatically.

In 2016-17, drivers were compensated to the tune of £20,143 but that has fallen to £2,346 in 2017-18 to date, a drop of more than 80%.

Philip Gomm of the RAC Foundation said: "By the strict letter of the law the council might be off the hook, but that's a world away from saying the underlying problem – pitted and rutted roads – doesn't exist.

"Unfortunately, the evidence is out there for all road users to see when they leave their homes each morning.

"The recent snow and ice will only have exacerbated the problems and while the warmer weather will be attracting more cyclists and bikers onto the roads they will be only too well aware that round the next corner could lie not just an inconvenience but a threat to life and limb.

"In 2016, 168 people in the South East were hurt in crashes where a poor road surface was a factor."

KCC has urged the government to give it more cash to make repairs to roads, arguing that as the gateway to Europe, Kent’s roads carry a disproportionate amount of traffic that is not taken into account when funding is calculated.

Giant potholes on the A2
Giant potholes on the A2

It has been claimed that across Kent’s 5000km there is a staggering £630 million backlog of repairs.

Road chiefs say that unless there are changes to funding, the county’s road network risks a "rapid spiral of asset deterioration".

Under the government’s formula for allocating cash to councils, KCC is on course to secure £26.6m million this year rather than £25.2m in what is described as its current band two rating.

However, the formula used will see a drop of £3.7m in Kent’s allocation over the next two years.

KCC has been asked to comment but has not yet responded.

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