Page last updated at 05:39 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 06:39 UK

Millions paid out in roads claims

Pothole
DRD paid 3.5m in compensation because of bad roads

The Department of Regional Development has paid more than £3.5m in compensation because of defective roads and footpaths in the past five years.

The money paid out includes compensation for both personal injury and damage to vehicles.

There are also 492 claims against the department which still have not been resolved.

A spokesperson for the department said safety was its top priority and it had repaired 200,000 defects last year.

There has been a significant rise in the number of claims because of defective roads.

In 2004/2005, there were just over 1,000 such claims but the figure rose to more than 1,800 last year.

The figures were revealed following an Assembly question posed by SDLP MLA John Dallat.

We're not talking about a pothole here and a pothole there. My understanding is that a lot of these claims are coming out because of roads with major deficiencies causing significant damage to expensive cars
John Dallat, SDLP MLA

He blamed a lack of investment in road maintenance which he said was a "false economy."

"The vast majority of these claims are a result of massive cutbacks in the roads budget," Mr Dallat said.

"The folly of it is that while the department is saving money from the cuts, they are then having to pay out major sums of money to people who are injured or whose cars are damaged as a result of bad roads.

"We're not talking about a pothole here and a pothole there. My understanding is that a lot of these claims are coming out because of roads with major deficiencies causing significant damage to expensive cars."

Mr Dallat, who is a former member of the DRD committee at Stormont, said he believed that if investment was not increased, there could be even more serious consequences.

"I believe that the lack of money is going to lead to more road deaths. It is logical to presume that bad roads lead to more accidents and that more accidents means more serious injuries and deaths."

A DRD spokesperson said it had recently increased investment in road maintenance.

"The three-year budget for the period 2008-11 means that funding for structural maintenance in the next two years will be around £72m and £70m," the spokesperson said.

"This represents an increase of around 27%, when compared with the initial budget allocation for 2008/9.

"By carrying out inspections and repairs in accordance with our maintenance standards, we are able to ensure that the department is in a good position to defend any compensation claims that may be lodged against it."



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