Suffolk: County councils spends £1.4million on compensation claims in only three years

Suffolk County Council has spent �1.4m on compensation claims in the last three years

Suffolk County Council has spent �1.4m on compensation claims in the last three years - Credit: PA

Suffolk County Council has forked out more than £1.4million in compensation claims in only three years - including more than £400,000 to its own employees and contractors, the EADT can reveal.

A Freedom of Information request shows more than 400 payouts have been made since January 1, 2010, ranging from six-figure settlements to claims for as little as £9.30.

Last night campaigners blamed the country’s growing compensation culture and urged the council “to get a grip” in a bid to stop taxpayers’ money being directed away from front line services.

But a spokesman for the authority said payouts only occurred in a small number of cases, with the figures showing that 78% of claims were rejected.

The most claims were made on Suffolk’s roads - with 228 incidents recorded, including 27 on A and B roads.

Meanwhile, compensation was paid out 47 times for incidents at schools, including 19 to council employees or contractors.

Eleanor McGrath, campaign manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Residents are footing the bill for monumental compensation claims, particularly because of the state of the roads in Suffolk.

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“The growing compensation culture is costing taxpayers a huge sum and is far too common in Suffolk school playgrounds.

“The council must get a grip on this problem as big compensation payouts add to council tax bills and divert resources away from the front line.”

The majority of claims are handled by professional claims handlers and legal advisors appointed by the council.

In the past three years, 78% of claims have been rejected, and an independent review in 2011 found the council’s claims-handling process to be satisfactory.

A council spokesman said: “We take a strong stance and look to defend claims where it is clear that the council is not liable.

“In a small number of cases, substantial payments have been made in the settlement of claims, where we have accepted liability for injuries that have occurred.

“We review our systems and procedures in the light of any claims that are settled to ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt to reduce the risk of similar incidents occurring in future.”

The largest compensation awarded was £147,739 to a driver that suffered brain damage following a crash in June 2010 where the council failed to display sufficient warning signs.

The second-biggest payout also came after an incident on Suffolk’s roads, with £99,526 awarded following a crash on a B road in September 2011 where the victim was left paralysed.

The only other payout of more than £50,000 was to someone working for the council, who suffered neck injuries while working for the children and young people’s team.

All compensation payments to council staff were for personal injury claims, with 14 of the 43 payouts topping £10,000.

There were also two payments to victims of abuse, with one victim of an incident in September 1991 awarded £17,684.

The smallest settlement was £9.30, paid to an employee who suffered a rash on their hands from chemicals while working at a nursery.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service paid out £30,037 on eight claims - six to members of staff and two to the general public.