I read recently that Canterbury City Council has had to pay compensation to a car owner after a traffic warden fixed a parking ticket to the car windscreen, and it was claimed that the adhesive had damaged the glass. The ticket was for a fixed penalty of £25, and the compensation awarded was £41, leaving the car owner a nice little profit of £16. A spokesperson for the City Council stated that the damage claim had been investigated ‘fully’, and was clearly a ‘one-off’ event. It was also stated that the money was paid out by the Council’s insurers, and that there were no plans for the Council to change the type of adhesive used for penalty notices in the foreseeable future.
The damaged windscreen incident came to light as the result of a Freedom of Information request by a group called the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which was investigating local authority compensation payments, presumably to check that taxpayers are getting good value for money. The results of their request highlighted that in 2013/14, compensation payments totalling £13,320 came from Canterbury City Council, but thankfully for the local community taxpayers, the next year the payments reduced to just over £2,500. The Alliance make the point that any payments are funded by taxpayers, and even if insurance companies make the pay-out, the authority is penalised with higher premiums which still have to be funded from the same source.
Falling trees and car parks
Apparently, the majority of Canterbury’s compensation claims came about as a result of car and property damage by tree roots and falling trees. In addition, a pay-out of £200 was made after the access door of a lamp post fell off and damaged a car in a car park, and a malfunctioning car park barrier hit a car and resulted in a payment of over £1,000. Of the average of 90 compensation claims made each year, the damaged windscreen payment of £41 was actually the smallest amount of compensation paid in the period. The largest was over £6,500 following an incident when a child had its’ foot trapped in a gap inside a lift for disabled people.
One hundred and four million pounds
A staggering one hundred and four MILLION pounds was paid out nationwide by local authorities over the 2 year period in question, all funded by the taxpayer. Every council and local authority controls vast amounts of land, huge numbers of buildings and a wide range of services, so it’s not surprising that there should be large numbers of claims for compensation when things go wrong. Having said that, the numbers are pretty astonishing at a time when budgets and therefore services are being cut all around us, and there is a massive pressure to reduce costs. Maybe councils should be spending a little more on preventive measures such as tree and buildings maintenance, in order to try to avoid future compensation payments.