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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2008, 11:34 GMT

Figures reveal pothole pay-outs

By Hayley Rothwell
BBC Scotland news website

Damaged wheel
It is claimed that potholes cost British motorists 320m a year

Scottish local authorities have paid out almost 2m in compensation due to claims over road defects, such as potholes, during the past five years.

But an insurance company said the figures obtained from councils by the BBC Scotland news website were just a fraction of the true cost to motorists.

Warranty Direct claimed that road surface defects cost British drivers about 320m each year.

It said the amount paid was low because pothole claims were difficult to prove.

Barry Coulter, a barrister who works in London, is pursuing a claim against East Dunbartonshire Council after his car was damaged when he drove through a pothole on Baldernock Parish Church Road.

He said: "I was driving along perfectly happily, listening to the radio, when there was a sudden bang. There was nothing on the road and I was completely shocked by what had happened.

We reckon, looking at our costs, that it costs the British motorists 320m every year in pothole damage
Duncan McClure Fisher
Warranty Direct

"So I walked back down the road a short distance and there it was - a very significant pot hole - about six inches deep and about five feet long at its longest point."

Barry realised that two wheels and surrounding tyres were damaged.

He said he was claiming for the cost of the tyres, which he estimated was at least 300, on his insurance but has also written to the local council to complain about the pothole.

A spokeswoman for East Dunbartonshire Council said it had not received Mr Coulter's complaint.

'Difficult to prove'

Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct, said the insurance company set up the website '' to deal with the growing demand of pothole-related claims.

He said: "We're seeing a very big increase in the number of claims we're paying out against suspension failures and a lot of that is as a result of poor road surfaces.

"We reckon, looking at our costs, that it costs the British motorists 320m every year in pothole damage. And that's not taking into account things like alloy wheels and tyres, so it's probably much more than that."

Your pictures of problem potholes across Scotland

But he said that proving a pothole had caused damage to your car was very difficult.

"You've got to carry a camera around with a date on it. But it's not very easy. Looking at the reports on the potholes website it's pretty difficult and all the local councils have some pretty standard responses to the claims that people are trying to make," he said.

A report published by Audit Scotland last year found that almost half of the country's roads were in need of repair.

The document was based on information supplied by the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (Scots), who measure defects on Scotland's roads.

Ken Lane, chairman of the Scots, said this year's report would paint a similar picture.

He said: "I think the figures will indicate that the road network is not improving at a rate that we would be happy with.

"There's a clear need that more investment is required in the road infrastructure, and that is indisputable but there is also a need to ensure that funding is invested wisely."

Barry Coulter took this picture to illustrate the size of the pothole

Scots has estimated 1.8bn is needed to improve Scotland's roads.

A spokeswoman from Cosla, the umbrella group that represents local authorities in Scotland, said the removal of ring-fencing in this year's budget should give councils greater scope to allocate funding to areas of need.

BBC Scotland news website asked each of Scotland's 32 local authorities to provide information on how much they had paid out to motorists in compensation because of road defects, such as potholes, in the past five years.

The final figure was more than 1.9m.

In some cases the figures included amounts paid out for trips and falls, as well as damage to vehicles.

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