NO motorists this year have so far made a successful compensation claim against Buckinghamshire County Council for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes - prompting a political group to question if it's now harder to make a claim.
Figures obtained by the Wycombe Labour group claim the council - which has responsibility for the upkeep of the county's road - has not had to pay out to any motorists whose vehicles have been damaged by driving along a defective road in the current council year.
Labour said the council paid out 45 times in 2010/11 out of 2,231 claims submitted to the council, while 763 claims had been made against the authority last year.
Severe weather in two poor winters led to roads around the county cracking up, leading to a surge in the number of claims from motorists whose vehicles had been damaged by potholes.
The council said it is able to successfully defend 95 per cent of all actions brought against them due its system of inspection and repair.
But Labour's Councillor for Disraeli, Khalil Ahmed, questioned the figures, saying it’s 'a mystery' why the number of claims made against the county council had gone done.
Cllr Ahmed said: "There is general agreement that our roads in Bucks are poorly maintained – BCC says so itself. And yet, if these figures are correct, fewer vehicles are being damaged by potholes or fewer road users are making claims for the damage - or both.
"This decrease in claims started three years ago, so it is not the result of this year’s mild winter. It is also odd that no-one has claimed successfully as yet for 2013/4.
"So what is happening? Perhaps drivers are getting to know where the potholes are and are avoiding them. Perhaps drivers are slowing down. Perhaps drivers are just accepting damage from potholes as a normal feature of driving and not bothering to claim.
"Somehow neither of these explanations seem right. I wonder if the real reason is that BCC has made it more difficult to claim?”
Rosemary Bryant, spokesman for Transport for Buckinghamshire, said: "All claims for damage or injuries relating to potholes are dealt with on an individual basis. Every case is different and each claim is assessed by a team of claims handlers and dealt with as appropriate.
"The council or its insurers will only pay compensation on claims where it is established that the council has failed to properly discharge its responsibilities as the highway authority.
"To establish a defence the council will need to show that it has a proper system of inspection and repair including responding to complaints of defects arising in between our regular inspections. Inspection frequencies are broadly based on national guidelines and take into consideration the type and usage of the road in question. The council successfully defends around 95 per cent of all such claims based on our inspection and repair system.
"Defects can develop in between our inspections and the public are encouraged to report such problems to us so that we can take prompt action. Defects can be reported on our service information centre www.buckscc.gov.uk/transport or if urgent by telephoning 0845 2302882."