A LOCAL authority has admitted it is struggling to defend itself after handing out thousands of pounds in compensation to drivers whose cars have been damaged by potholes.

Wrexham Council has received a spike in claims from motorists in the last two financial years, paying out a combined total of £36,819.

That amount has more than doubled compared to the £14,306 it spent in the previous two years, according to newly-released figures.

Meanwhile, the number of claims it successfully defended has dipped from 73 per cent in 2015/16 to just 26 per cent in 2018/19.

Senior figures have blamed extreme winter weather conditions and increased publicity surrounding the condition of roads in Wales for the mounting costs.

In a report Councillor David A Bithell, lead member for environment and transport, admitted the council needed to carry out more improvement works.

He said: “Since April 2017 there has been a significant increase in this type of compensation claim which has coincided with an increase in the number of defective highway reports received.

“This increase may be attributed to the impacts of significant and prolonged periods of harsh weather experienced over recent winters together with the increased national and local media profile concerning the condition of the road network across Wales and the UK.

“The number of claims which the council has been able to successfully defend has reduced from 73 per cent to 26 per cent during the period with an overall average of 44 per cent compared to a benchmarked average of 79 per cent.

“This indicates that the council has further work to do with regard to improving the quality of the highways network to reduce the number of claims being received but also, where claims are submitted, enabling the council to defend them successfully by demonstrating compliance with the Highways Safety Inspection Policy (HSIP) and retaining evidence to support this.”

The council is liable for the first £50,000 of every claim made against it and is currently dealing with 63 open cases.

According to the report, the largest single claim paid out over the whole four-year period was £2,465.

Cllr Bithell added: “As part of the council’s work on improving the environment it is vitally important that limited resources are focused on the important issues and priorities.

“The maintenance, resilience and safety of the highway network is one of those important priorities.

“The impacts of the new HSIP, better use of technology and improved processes for repair and inspection will help reduce risk to the travelling public and improve the council’s ability to defend highway related damage claims.”