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Slabs, trees and potholes: Wolverhampton Council pays out £1m in compensation

A council paid out more than £1 million in compensation over the last five years - with injuries caused by slabs, trees and drains and pothole damage to cars among the reasons for payouts.

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Wolverhampton Council has been forced to pay compensation 282 times since 2016.

Most of the claims were made by drivers whose vehicles had been damaged by potholes or people who had been injured falling over.

But there were also much more serious claims brought, including by people who had suffered abuse while in care.

A total of £1.1m was paid out by the city council between January 2016 to June 2021.

Ten payments of £20,000 or more were made with the highest payout being £105,670 for the authority failing to remove a child from their grandmother who had a history of physical abuse against her own children.

The most common payouts were due to potholes with 78 payments made at a cost of nearly £49,000. These mostly concerned damage to vehicles, but also included people who had fallen after stepping in potholes.

Payouts for trips leading to injuries had the highest combined total of more than £315,000.

Incidents included someone who tripped over the remnants of a metal stump in the pavement, suffering facial injuries.

Another person who was hit in the eye with a stone while cutting grass on a ride-on mower was paid £50,000, the data showed.

Elsewhere, a payout of £15,000 was made to the family of a child who was injured when a goal collapsed on him while playing football at school.

In another case, a letter containing details about a child being adopted was sent to the wrong address and the information subsequently shared. The blunder resulted in a £1,000 payout.

Opposition councillor Udey Singh said he was "astounded" by the number of payouts made by the Labour-run council.

He said: “Quite frankly I’m astounded Wolverhampton Council has paid out over £1 million in compensation.

“Not only has the council taxpayer been stuck with a bill of over a £1 million but in many cases, it is our residents that have suffered harm and had to seek compensation from their own council.

“Many of these payments could have been avoided if the council focused more on frontline delivery and less on other things like PR. While accidents happen a good number of these incidents could have easily been avoided."

But a council spokesman said: "Wolverhampton Council has been independently judged to be amongst the top five per cent of claims handlers nationally and that includes both the public and private sector.

"We continue to successfully defend the vast majority of claims received against us - for example, 88 per cent of claims were successfully defended in 2019. Each claim for compensation is individually investigated and a decision on liability is made by experienced claim handlers in conjunction with council policies and the law.

"We robustly defend all claims where we are not liable and where we are liable, offers for settlement are negotiated to ensure the settlement amount is commensurate to the loss."