THE number of compensation claims regarding potholes and poor roads in East Lothian trebled over the last year.

Council officers have blamed a rise in council tax bills for the increase, claiming residents feel more entitled to compensation because of it.

A breakdown of public liability claims filed against East Lothian Council during the period between April 2017 and March 2018 revealed that nearly half related to damage caused by potholes or road defects.

It said that the local authority paid out £199,000 in compensation to members of the public, with road-related claims by far the most common.

It revealed nearly 100 claims related to potholes and road defects, compared to about 30 such claims in the previous year.

A report to councillors from Derek Oliver, the council’s protective services manager, said that the significant increase was being attributed to the three per cent rise in council tax introduced by the local authority last year.

It said: “Local residents are linking the state of the roads to the increase in council tax and feel that they should get compensation for vehicle damage which they consider is being caused by the poor state of the roads.

“The biggest rise in claims is in relation to road defects.”

Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader, said the increase in claims was “worrying”.

Last month it was revealed a third of the road network in East Lothian was in need of repair, with warnings the situation was likely to worsen without more investment.

A report on the state of the county’s roads said 34 per cent needed repairs, with nearly 24km of rural roads requiring immediate investigation and possible treatment.

The report said: “The level of investment on public roads in East Lothian has not been sufficient to limit the decline in the overall condition of the network.”

Mr Currie said of the public liability claims: “This is a worrying set of figures. There is clearly a link between road maintenance and these insurance claims. I think most residents will be concerned about this and it just reinforces the need for further investment.”

Public liability claims by the council over the last financial year reached 200 compared to 100 in the previous year.

Of those, nearly half were for road damage, with just over 40 relating to damage done by trade staff and 20 for slips and trips. The others were made up of claims about water damage, damage by machinery or to equipment and damp.

A report on the claims revealed that 84 per cent were successfully challenged by the council, with an average of £7,718 paid out to successful claims where injuries occurred on roads or pavements, with £590 paid out for similar claims where there were no injuries.

Michelle Ballantyne, MSP for South Scotland, said the Scottish Government had to take responsibility for the state of the roads in East Lothian.

She said: “People in East Lothian are no longer driving on the left of the road, they’re driving on what’s left of the road.

“Due to SNP cuts, our councils are struggling and hardworking families in East Lothian are forced to pick up the pieces with increases to council tax.”

A council spokesperson said: “The council received an increased number of public liability insurance claims in the last year which was predominantly attributable to potholes and road defects, of which a significant number were not upheld.  “The Beast from the East severe weather experienced in the spring affected road surfaces nationwide, and here in East Lothian too, which contributed to the demand on repair work.

“We are constantly working on a rolling programme of road repairs and maintenance which are prioritised according to risk, urgency and available budget.”