Sunderland City Council forks out £41,000 in street falls compensation

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PAYOUTS to people who have tripped on loose paving slabs on the streets of Sunderland have rocketed during the past year.

Tens of thousands of pounds were handed out in compensation those who stumbled or fell on Wearside streets.

A Freedom of Information request by the Echo to Sunderland City Council revealed the figures.

They show that the authority had to shell out £41,290 last year to those who fell after tripping on loose slabs, a rise of more than £26,000 on the previous 12 months.

Just over £15,000 was paid out in 2011/12, with £18,843 given out to those injured during 2010/11.

Councillors today said more needed to be done to make streets safer.

Coun Robert Oliver, Conservative leader on Sunderland Council, said: “Clearly, the council has not used the many years in which there was ample funding to ensure that footpaths are in good condition and now a price is being paid in terms of compensation claims.

“This money could be better used repairing the footpaths rather than lining the pockets of claims lawyers and compensating residents, most of whom would prefer better footpaths to suing the council.”

The figures were also criticised by Independent Colin Wakefield said: “It’s a staggering amount of money, given that the paths still have to be repaired after this compensation is paid, so timely repairs could have saved this money and, of course, the pain caused to members of the public.

“We need a simpler and quicker reporting process for such hazards. We have council workers out and about everywhere in the city, from traffic wardens to bin men – and councillors, of course.

“We need to encourage staff, councillors and members of the public to report such hazards as they come across them.

“We also have many other companies who can and do repairs and alterations to footpaths, BT for example who also have an obligation to carry out repairs to their work quickly, which is not always the case.”

Councillor Mel Speding, cabinet secretary at Sunderland City Council, said: “The council is very aware of the number and cost of the accidents it is held responsible for and is constantly managing risks to reduce figures.

“The council carries out regular inspections of pavements and arranges repairs.

“If the public notice any loose or broken paving stones, they can report them by telephoning 520 5555.”

l Have you received a payout after tripping on a loose paving slab? Call our newsdesk on 501 7208.