NORTHUMBERLAND County Council has paid out £1.1 million on settled pothole claims over the past five years.

A total of £1,110,358 was paid to motorists from 2015-2020­ – a figure a consumer rights expert has now described as “astonishing.”

“The damage sustained to vehicles has been substantial in each case with the majority of claims being rejected year in, year out and the council ought to offer a meaningful explanation for this”, said Scott Dixon. “Covid and bad weather cannot be used as an excuse as these figures are consistent since 2015.”

Over the five-year reporting period, a total of 872 pothole claims were settled and 1,048 rejected.

He added: “These success rates on pothole claims are much better than most authorities across the UK, although it’s clear to me that the majority of motorists are being fobbed off with default excuses to frustrate legitimate claims. This is completely unacceptable.

“Motorists are being unfairly treated by the council. Never refer to a pothole as an accident as accidents hold nobody liable, whereas as a collision / incident does.”

A total of 282,490 potholes were repaired – both temporary and permanent – between 2015 and 2020.

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson said: “With over 3,000 miles of road, Northumberland has one of the largest highway networks in the North-East.

“The council takes the quality of road surfaces and repair of potholes very seriously and invests considerable time and resource in making ongoing improvements.

“We have increased our spending on road repairs and this continues as a priority for investment.

“As well as pothole repairs, we undertake more significant improvement schemes that represent better long-term value for money and we have allocated an additional £15m from the council’s own financial resources to support a two-year enhanced maintenance programme for minor roads and footpaths. This is in addition to the £22m being invested this year on road maintenance works across Northumberland through our Local Transport Plan programme, taking our spending over the past four years to well over £100m.

“Any insurance claims made against the council are considered fairly and equitably by the council’s insurers, taking all relevant information and evidence into account.”