Not a penny of Southampton taxpayers’ cash was paid out for compensation claims over potholes last year, the Daily Echo can reveal.
The drop in successful compensation claims made against the city council for damage and injuries caused by holes in the roads has been hailed as proof the state of the highways is improving.
It comes as Hampshire County Council said it had to hand over nearly £250,000 to motorists in 12 months because of problems caused by potholes – a four-fold increase in three years.
With freezing temperatures expected to continue to hit the south this week, authorities are bracing themselves for more holes appearing as ice cracks road surfaces.
Claims Hampshire County Council paid out £233,348 during the 2011/12 financial year, compared to around £111,000 in 2009/10 and just £60,000 in 2008/9.
Southampton City Council paid £113,598 for 37 claims in 2008/09 and £137,132 for 16 claims settled in 2010/11.
The Government last month announced it is giving Hampshire an extra £6.1m over the next two financial years for essential work to renew and repair roads, while Southampton will receive £479,000.
The cash is on top of existing funding for highways maintenance, and authorities will be required to publish details of what it has been spent on.
Councils say it costs an average of £45 to repair one square metre of road damaged by potholes. In 2010, Southampton City Council signed a £100m ten-year contract with the country’s largest construction firm, Balfour Beatty, to look after all highways maintenance.
Civic chiefs said the deal – the biggest it has ever signed – has led to a reduction in the number of potholes. Although it has three claims still being processed, the council didn’t pay out on any pothole-related dispute in 2012.
City roads boss Councillor Asa Thorpe urged anyone who spots a pothole to report it to Actionline on 0800 519 191. He said: “The council and its partner Balfour Beatty Living Places are working hard to reduce the number of potholes on the city’s roads. “This has not been helped by the very severe wet weather in recent months. However, in the last year, by detecting and repairing potholes to our published standards, we have been able to drastically reduce the payment of compensation to third parties.”
Hampshire’s transport chief, Councillor Mel Kendal, said: “Highways maintenance is a top priority for the county council, and we spend nearly £60m per annum on general highways maintenance.
“In the past year alone, we have strengthened a total of more than 150 miles of roads and footways, making them more resilient and better able to withstand the effects of extremes in weather conditions and ever increasing traffic, by which I mean all forms of traffic – footfall, cycling and vehicular.”
An AA spokesman said he was not surprised Hampshire had been forced to pay out more than Southampton because of the geography of the two areas.
And while he is pleased to see councils accept when they are at fault, he said he would rather see the problem solved before damage was caused.
The motoring organisation’s spokesman said: “It’s always a bit of a double-edged sword. The fact that councils cough up is a good thing because it means they’re not fighting claims, but it’s also a bad thing because it means they’ve got a problem.”