Highland Council has been hit with hundreds of compensation claims in the last year from motorists who have damaged their vehicles on the region’s crumbling roads.
New figures show that the budget-cutting local authority has already forked out more than £20,000 after it moved to settle 92 of the 220 claims.
Opposition councillors last night questioned how much money the council was spending investigating the claims – arguing that it would be better spent filling in potholes.
But a senior member of the ruling administration described the cost figures as “minimal” and insisted that the issue was being tackled.
Data viewed by the Press and Journal has revealed that in Inverness alone there were 46 compensation bids last year, and another 15 in 2017 to date.
But only one of the 46 motorists received a payout in the Highland capital last year, securing £117 from the authority, while another was paid £140 this year.
In Caithness and Sutherland there were 55 claims between August last year and last month, with a total of £4,315.50 paid out to settle 22 of the claims.
Skye and Raasay accounted for 24 of the claims to the council, of which a total of 16 have been paid out, worth £2,889.
In Lochalsh there were another 22 claims, of which the council has paid a total of £5,325 to 19 drivers, while in Lochaber there were 10 claims, with three motorists receiving a total of £885.46.
Another three claims were made from Badenoch and Strathspey, none of which have been settled.
Black Isle councillor Craig Fraser questioned council chiefs on the issue after hearing local concerns about several motorists damaging their cars on a single pothole in his ward.
Last night, the SNP councillor said: “How much is it costing or has cost Highland Council to investigate these claims?
“This money would be better spent fixing the roads. Then there is also the time for officers, legal representatives, which all have cost implications for Highland Council.”
He added: “Motorists have said to me that they have not claimed for damage to their vehicles. In the past I have had broken springs and a burst tyre due to road defects. I did not claim for these issues, so I can understand motorists’ comments.”
It is estimated that between 2010 and 2015 Highland Council paid out more than £100,000 in compensation to motorists because of damage caused to their vehicles.
In 2015, Highland Council moved to divert more than £24million of funding earmarked for play parks, public toilets and flood prevention schemes to fund a major resurfacing programme on roads across the region.
Councillor Allan Henderson, vice convener of the local authority and chairman of its places committee, said that investment was already paying off.
“Councillor Fraser is possibly missing the point. The time spent investigating applications looking for compensation is done by our insurance staff and it’s mostly done using a desktop study,” he said.
“The total is about £20,000 – it’s pretty minimal when you think that the council is looking after 6,000km of roads.
“In this case it’s probably a good news story because I think most people will probably be surprised that the council only pays out £20,000 – it doesn’t even cover the cost of one car.
“We have committed to spending more money roads and there is already evidence of that in the performance indicators, which show the number of requests for filling in potholes is way down on last year.”