Council leaders are warning that 'no-win no-fee’ compensation claims are threatening their ability to deliver vital public services.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling on the Government to crackdown on ‘opportunistic’ claims saying these compensation cases are taking money away from services such as education and road repairs.
Figures show that compensation claims related to the condition of roads last year cost councils £31.6m, the equivalent of fixing more than 600,000 potholes. Compensation claims for incidents in schools cost £2.7m last year, rising to £6m when legal fees were added.
Cllr Peter Fleming, chairman of the LGA's Improvement Board, said: ‘It is absolutely right that compensation is made available to people with genuine cases. But councils have feared for a long time that some lawyers are clogging up the system with spurious claims from people just chancing their arm.
‘The vast majority of lawyers do a commendable job. However, there is a small but significant minority of opportunistic lawyers leeching away money which would be much better spent improving our schools and fixing our roads. Some of the claims being made and fees being charged beggar belief.’
Cllr Fleming added that the while local authorities took their responsibility for public safety very seriously, lawyers tended to be the 'real winners’ of these cases. He added: ‘Government has already gone some way towards reforming no-win no-fee claims, but we need a further and fuller overhaul of the system to stop opportunistic lawyers lining their pockets at the public's expense.’