Council has paid out almost £1 million in compensation
Published: 3 Jan 2013 07:301 comment
CASH-STRAPPED council chiefs have paid out almost £1million in compensation over the past five years, it has emerged.
The claims, which total £945,079.46, mostly relate to drivers whose cars have been damaged by potholes.
However, other payments have been made for damage caused by grass cutting, inadequate supervision and local authority workers hitting parked vehicles.
The details were obtained after the Scottish Conservatives submitted a Freedom of Information request to Scottish Borders Council.
Borders MSP John Lamont has criticised the figure. He claimed the money should have been spent on improving local services.
Mr Lamont said: "This is a staggering figure. That Scottish Borders Council has spent nearly a million pounds on settling compensation claims will surprise many people and it is clear that this figure needs to be reduced.
"It is only right that when someone is injured or has their property damaged through no fault of their own, councils should pay up quickly and efficiently.
"However, we must also ensure that councils are given the appropriate legal support to ensure that they get a fair deal when any compensation is given."
Scottish Borders Council, which is led by a rainbow coalition, with the Conservatives in opposition, recently announced it needs to save at least £27.5million over the next five years.
Mr Lamont said: "With council budgets having to be stretched further and further it is important that we spend money as wisely as we can.
"This is a significant amount of cash that could have been spent on improving the services and facilities in the Borders."
But he added: "Instead, Scottish Borders Council has had to invest a lot of time and money on these claims. Spending this amount of money is simply not sustainable and we need to see these claims start to reduce if we want to see the best use made of our council tax."
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the number of sick days taken by council workers during the Olympics is severely down on the same period for last year. Between July 27 and August 8 this year a total of 1,638 sick days were taken by Scottish Borders Council employees. That is 190 days down on the same period the year before.