Compensation claims for pothole damage to cars on the rise in West Sussex

A pothole in West Sussex. Pic by Steve Robards
A pothole in West Sussex. Pic by Steve Robards

Compensation payments to drivers whose cars were damaged by potholes in 2018 have cost West Sussex County Council more than £30,000 so far, with another £11,000 likely to follow.

The figures were published in a report detailing the complaints and compliments received by the council that year, which was discussed by members of the standards committee last Friday (July 26).

So far, the council has received 1,186 claims for the year and has closed or settled 740 of them, paying 81 people a total of £30,678.94. Offers totalling £11,777.49 have been made to another 34 claimants.

The report said that in 2017 there had been 494 claims, 478 of which were closed or settled, with payments of £47,351.24 made to 110 people.

The pothole complaints were not included in the general list of complaints made to the council, which rose by more than 20 per cent between 2017 and 2018 – from 659 to 812. One-third of them were upheld.

There were 26 complaints about the competence of staff, compared to 12 in 2017. But it was pointed out that, when the matters were looked into, the staff were usually perfectly competent and doing their jobs well. It was the council policies they were putting into practice that claimants had a problem with.

Three-quarters of all complaints related to adult social care, children’s social care and highways.

With the number of complaints about children’s services increasing ‘significantly’ from 166 to 208, Roger Oakley (Con, Worthing East) asked if there was any link with the current ‘failings’ in the service.

He was told that it was ‘difficult to say’ but officers would ‘not be surprised’ if that was the case.

On the plus side, the total number of compliments rose from 4,065 in 2017 to 5,211 in 2018 – though members were told that the vast majority were made to people who simply did their job ‘in a way that we as a council would want it to be done’.

An additional 2,493 compliments were received following the popular Summer Reading Challenge held by the library service, but these were not included in the figures.

Members were told that the number of formal complaints represented a ‘fraction of 1 per cent’ of the time the council dealt with the public or with people using its services.

The report added: “This comment in no way infers that the council simply accepts the level of complaints we have received.

“We want to avoid any customer needing to complain, but also regard every complaint as an opportunity to learn and to implement changes that will avoid future complaints being made, improving our customers’ experience and in turn our customers’ satisfaction levels with the council.”