Herefordshire Council has paid out more than £7,000 over the past three years to drivers who claimed damage to their vehicles was due to potholes in the county’s roads.

But this figure appears to be part of a downward trend since the council adopted a policy to deal with the problem more strategically.

The council received 553 claims in all of 2019, 2020 and 2021, but agreed to pay out on just 39 of them, or fewer than one in 14, results of a Freedom of Information request show.

Perhaps surprisingly, 2020 saw saw more than twice as many claims, and successful claims, as either 2019 or 2021, even as road transport declined over 21 per cent nationally due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the nine successful claims last year, out of 123 lodged, proved unusually expensive, averaging over £290 per settlement – nearly twice the average of the two previous years.

The figures compare favourably with those for the 2013-2016 period, when according to a similar FoI request by the Hereford Times, more than £60,000 was paid out in pothole-related compensation.

Between October 2013 and September 2014, for example, 791 claims were made against Herefordshire Council, of which 145 were successful, costing the authority £30,047.

The figure for the following 12-month period was 86 successful claims, costing £23,590.

The council’s Highway Asset Management Strategy, adopted in 2013, aimed to reduce the cost of potholes “by over £1.6 billion”, to reduce the whole-life cost of maintenance by over £72 million and “prevent over 386,000 potholes over the 34-year lifecycle of our roads”.

It then adopted a Highways Maintenance Plan in 2016, setting out its system of inspection and repair on all the county’s public highways for which it is the highway authority.

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said it and its partners, Balfour Beatty, now inspect all the county’s A, B and major C roads monthly, and that more than 3,000 potholes are repaired each month.

“Our approach to compensating vehicle owners for damage sustained has remained consistent, in that if a defect contributes to an accident and we have failed to properly inspect and repair the highway, the motorist is able to claim reimbursement of losses,” the council’s spokesperson said.

The pandemic meanwhile has cut the number of journeys made and hence claims being submitted, while also reducing wear and tear on the network, he pointed out.

The council has an online pothole reporting tool and an interactive pothole map for the county.

However its own recent polling shows five in six residents regard road maintenance as either “unsatisfactory” or “very unsatisfactory”.  

Herefordshire has been named the English county with the most miles of roads per person - though neighbouring Powys in Wales has an even larger road network relative to its population.