Payout spree ‘is spiralling out of control’ as councils hit for over £30m

One woman in Clackmannanshire claimed �40 after grasscutters damaged her garden gnomes
One woman in Clackmannanshire claimed �40 after grasscutters damaged her garden gnomes
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MORE than £30 million has been paid out by local councils in Scotland to settle thousands of compensation claims over the past five years.

Many of the cases were branded “utterly ridiculous” amid warnings that no-win, no-fee lawyers are driving a compensation culture which is “spiralling out of control”.

The figures, uncovered by the Conservatives through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, show that £33.2m was spent on almost 13,000 compensation claims between 2007-08 and 2011-12.

But it is feared that the true cost could be higher as seven of Scotland’s 32 councils did not respond to the FOI request.

The majority of claims involved vehicle accidents, trips on pavements and potholes, and various problems with council housing.

The cases include a traveller in East Ayrshire who fell through a bus shelter with a missing pane of glass who was given £250, and local authority workers who struck an expensive vehicle which ended up costing East Dunbartonshire Council £70,000.

When overhanging branches in Edinburgh knocked a cyclist off their bike, it led to a £4,000 payout, and in the same city a man who hit his head on a low ceiling was handed £2,000.

Around £31,000 was awarded to a commuter in East Ayrshire when a bus went too fast over a speedbump, and Midlothian Council had to pay £19,000 to someone who slipped on mud.

In North Ayrshire, officials had to settle with a glazier who tripped over a loose cable and landed on a four-inch hook.

Other examples include a woman in Clackmannanshire who claimed £40 after grasscutters damaged her gnomes, and a person being lifted into the air when their jacket caught on a bin hoist in Glasgow – which has so far cost £250 in legal fees.

Tory local government spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “It is right when someone is injured, has their property damaged or is inconvenienced through no fault of their own, councils should pay up quickly and efficiently.

“However, the sheer amount of cash involved here really points to the compensation culture in which we live spiralling out of control.

“Clearly, with budgets tight, it is neither sensible nor sustainable to be spending millions of pounds every year on incidents which, in many cases, are entirely avoidable.”

Falkirk Council paid out the most – £6.7m – closely followed by Fife which coughed up more than £5.2m, while the bill in Edinburgh was £3.2m.

Councillor David O’Neill, president of local government body Cosla, said: “The Conservatives have certainly chosen to have Scotland’s councils in their sights over the festive period.

“They should perhaps remember that councils are made up of all political parties and as they returned an increased number of councillors in the May elections, they are having a pop at themselves to a large extent.”