Driver stunned by pothole claim letter

20/04/2011
Highways Reporters

A motorist was left dumbfounded when his £42 claim for pothole damage was met with a 200-page rejection letter from the local highways department.


Terry Rothery, of Smythe Road, Billericay, was furious when his blue BMW drove over a massive hole as he was driving home.


Mr Rothery, 65, fired off a letter of complaint to Essex County Council, together with a claim for replacing an alloy wheel.


The grandad was then stunned to receive a letter containing dozens of pages of legal wranglings.


He said: “I thought somebody was having a wind-up – what an absolute nonsense.


“The rejection letter was a load of gobbledygook, with clauses, subclauses and explanations, which basically said they could not be held responsible.


“I could not believe it, I was just gobsmacked when it arrived. I thought: What in heaven’s name are they up to?”


Although the county council is responsible for maintaining roads, it only accepts responsibility for pothole damage if the hole was reported before an accident and workers failed to fix it in time.


Officials explained this stance to Mr Rothery in a 16-page letter, but also decided to include the authority’s entire road maintenance strategy, which covers another 186 pages.


Mr Rothery said: “There were so many pages there that it cost about £2 to send it out to me.


“If they have done this to me, there must be hundreds of other people out there who have been sent the same thing, so just imagine how much that will have cost taxpayers.


“When people talk about barmy bureaucracy, this is it – it’s alive and well.”


The council has now apologised for the letter.


A spokesman said: “It is certainly not our policy to send out our full highways maintenance policy with every response to a compensation claim.


“It appears, on this occasion, it has been sent in error and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.


“Our policy when sending responses is to direct residents to the relevant section of our website, or to only send out relevant pages by post to keep paperwork to a minimum.”


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