CORK County Council paid out €6.2m in compensation last year – double what was paid in 2015.
The figures were released after Sinn Féin Cllr Des O’Grady requested a detailed breakdown of all of the Council’s insurance costs and payments from 2014 to 2016.
Assistant county manager Declan Daly confirmed that 428 claims were lodged against the local authority in 2016 – a figure that was significantly higher than the 283 claims lodged in 2015, and the 370 claims made in 2014. He also confirmed that the Council’s insurance premium was €2.36m in 2014, rose to €2.65m in 2015, and €2.89m in 2016.
Cllr O’Grady’s motion also sought to establish if Cork County Council had paid for investigations to be carried out, and to pinpoint the number of claims that were rejected, or found to be fraudulent.
Mr Daly said the local authority does not engage private investigators but the insurance firm, IPB, may have done so. And he said it was not possible to determine how many of the 1,100 insurance files were settled out of court without checking each file individually.
Cllr O’Grady said he had ‘no problem’ with people making genuine claims for injuries, or loss sustained, but said the Council needs to address the overall situation and find a way to drastically reduce the number of claims.
He described last year’s €6.2m payout as ‘a colossal figure’ and he blamed the state of the county’s roads and footpaths for the high number of claims.
A breakdown of the 2016 claims showed that 237 of them related to an accident involving a pothole; 76 related to footpaths; 49 related to roads; four were as a result of slipping or tripping; and 22 were windscreen related.
Mr Daly did, however, stress the fact that the figure for 2016 represented claims that were ‘finalised’ that year, but could have been set in motion a year or two before.
He said winter storms continued to undermine road works carried out by the Council, but advised the councillors that there is a designated section with Cork County Council dealing with the situation and that the Council’s area engineers are ‘responding accordingly’.
In Kinsale, Cllr Aidan Lombard (FG) said the area engineer and Council staff had identified 60 minor problems in road and footpath surfaces and had strategically set about rectifying them.
But Mary Linehan Foley (Ind) said the figures in the East Cork area are ‘climbing all the time – not just for people tripping, but for damage to cars as well’. She said: ‘The roads are in an unbelievable condition and we don’t have enough funding. Our secondary roads are falling asunder. You will have to fix the roads before the claims will stop.’
Cllr O’Grady said: ‘I was in the dark about these figures. But it’s clear we need to decrease the cost and put the money into other badly needed resources.’