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Highest payouts made by Welsh councils to public and employees revealed

11 Feb 2022 13 minutes Read
Some of Wales’ council buildings. Gwynedd, Cardiff, Conwy and Powys

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

The highest payouts made in the last three years by every Welsh council to public and employees have been revealed after a freedom of information request.

The request asked councils how much they had paid out for claims involving members of the public and employees for the last three years, numbers of claims, and highest payouts with a brief summary of the claim.

The full list can be seen below.

Every year councils settle compensation claims which can run into the tens of thousands pounds for the recipient – occasionally more.

Payouts are only made when the claimant has suffered a loss, such as an injury, due to negligence on behalf of the local authority.

While injuries caused by slips and trips are perhaps the best known category, damage caused by potholes can also cost councils.

And, as these Freedom of Information responses provided to the Local Democracy Reporting Service show, there are also payouts for assaults, flood damage, data protection breaches, and emotional and psychiatric damage.

A number of cyclists have successfully claimed after becoming unseated by potholes and suffering injuries.

And very occasionally a council may have to settle a claim for failing to remove a vulnerable young person from their home, or for sexual abuse while a young person was in care.

Council employees also receive payouts in certain instances. It’s hard not to wince when you hear that a Gwynedd Council employee got their finger caught between a gatepost and moving vehicle.

The most expensive case identified was the £318,000 settlement in Carmarthenshire after a member of council staff fell at a theatre.

Meanwhile, £109,971 was paid out for a head injury sustained by a member of the public in Powys.

‘Exploded’

Practising barrister Paul Hewitt, who is mainly based in Cardiff, has defended councils in compensation claims and also represented claimants.

He said councils have public and employers’ liability insurance to provide protection.

Claim numbers soared, he said, when the “no win no fee” mechanism replaced the right to legal aid for personal injury cases just over 20 years ago.

“From that point on, personal injury claims exploded – and so did insurance premiums for councils,” said Mr Hewitt.

While a practising solicitor in Swansea early in his career, Mr Hewitt recalled defending a local authority against a claim from a council house tenant.

Mr Hewitt said the tenant claimed they had hurt their ankle tripping over an drainage cover in the garden which was apparently sticking up.

“The council refused to settle the claim, so it went to court,” said Mr Hewitt.

“The damage (to the ankle) was assessed at £4,000 – the issue was liability.”

He said the court rejected the claim, which saved the council not only the £4,000 but about £9,000 in solicitors’ costs. Furthermore, the legal firm which represented the tenant had submitted costs of £25,000.

Mr Hewitt said the legal costs were covered by an insurance policy which the tenant would have had to take out before going to court.

Asked about the process when a member of the public approached him with a slip or trip compensation claim, Mr Hewitt said: “We would ask the person where they fell over, and we would go out and take photos, take a full set of instructions and a full statement.”

A “pre-action” letter, he said, would then be sent to the council, which in turn would investigate the matter.

Mr Hewitt said the council’s insurers might accept liability, in which case a medical report would be prepared about the claimant’s injuries and a value put on them. A small percentage, he said, went to court.

The list

A spokesman for the Welsh Local Government Association, which represents councils, said: “If the council is negligent, insurers look to settle the claim. If the council is not negligent, then the insurers deny liability.

“If the third party doesn’t agree with the insurer’s liability decision, the third party can issue court proceedings.”

The Freedom of Information request asked councils how much they had paid out for claims involving members of the public and employees for the last three years, numbers of claims, and highest payouts with a brief summary of the claim.

Follow-up requests were submitted in instances where councils declined to provide highest payouts or summaries thereof.

Some of the figures below may include legal costs but others don’t.

Blaenau Gwent Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £52,940
2019-20 £28,207
2020-21 £79,835

Number of claims paid out to the public:
2018-19 6
2019-20 4
2020-21 9

The three highest payouts during those years, and brief summary of the incident:
£35,000, £22,000, £15,000 (no further details provided)

Compensation paid out for its employees:
2018-19 £16,835
2019-20 nil
2020-21 £36,415

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 3
2019-20 nil
2020-21 6

The three highest payouts during those years, and brief summary of the incident:
£13,000, £8003 (no further details provided)

Bridgend Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £69,785
2019-20 £237,942
2020-21 £102,094

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 33
2019-20 18
2020-21 25

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£75,000 Psychiatric injuries
£58,603 Broken wrist after pothole fall
£24,800 Injured falling from scooter caused by gravel on road

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £33,629
2019-20 £40,511
2020-21 £34,285

Number of claims paid out to employees in those three years:
2018-19 8
2019-20 9
2020-21 10

Three highest payouts for employees:
£18,000 Employee hit in eye by fragment of metal
£12,690 Teacher cut off tip of finger with circular saw
£10,000 Industrial deafness

Caerphilly Council Office

Caerphilly Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £95,964
2019-20 £147,565
2020-21 £44,538

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 55
2019-20 56
2020-21 32

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£15,920 Flood damage to property
£13,450 Trip injury
£10,500 Damage to vehicle

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £3,600
2019-20 £4,555
2020-21 nil

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 1
2019-20 2
2020-21 nil

Three highest payouts for employees:
£3,600 Slip injury
£2,555 Hand injury
£2,000 Slip injury

Cardiff Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £320,968
2019-20 £326,799
2020-21 £316,148

Number of claims paid out to the public:
2018-19 132
2019-20 115
2020-21 99

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£52,500, £38,000, £33,750 – no further details provided

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £62,132
2019-20 £157,487
2020-21 £56,479

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 13
2019-20 15
2020-21 10

Three highest payouts for employees:
£22,500, £20,000, £16,885 – no further details provided

Carmarthenshire County Hall viewed from across the River Towy. Photo Rhyshuw1, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.

Carmarthenshire Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £69,475
2019-20 £205,455
2020-21 £106,827

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 21
2019-20 31
2020-21 21

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£105,000 Accident on footpath
£28,000 Accident in school playground
£23,625 Motorcyclist slid on excess gravel

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £16,048.50
2019-20 £76,872
2020-21 £368,886

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 4
2019-20 9
2020-21 4

Three highest payouts for employees:
£318,000 Fall at theatre
£28,750 Assault
£5,000 Fall at work

Ceredigion Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £29,022
2019-20 £2,200
2020-21 £707

Number of claims paid out to the public:
2018-19 3
2019-20 4
2020-21 1

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£13,413 Trip injury
£9,893 Vehicle damage due to obstruction on road
£5,716 Trip injury

Compensation paid out for employees: nil

Conwy Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £107,360
2019-20 £91,035
2020-21 £46,427

Number of claims paid out to the public:
2018-19 7
2019-20 4
2020-21 2

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£43,208 Property damage
£30,818 Slip/trip/fall injury
£14,611 Slip/trip/fall injury

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £17,046
2019-20 £25,952
2020-21 £44,503

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 1
2019-20 2
2020-21 1

Three highest payouts for employees:
£44,503 Slip/trip/fall injury
£20,398 Noise-induced hearing loss
£17,046 Exertion injury

Denbighshire County Council Headquarters. Photo Arwel Parry, CC BY-SA3 via Wikimedia Commons.

Denbighshire Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £26,422
2019-20 £35,759
2020-21 £43,459

Information was provided on number of claims received but not paid out.

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£13,500 Cyclist pothole fall injury
£5,850 Slip/trip injury
£5,000 Cyclist pothole fall injury

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 nil
2019-20 £5,220
2020-21 nil

Information was provided on number of claims received but not paid out.

Highest payouts for employees:
£3,420 Stress

Flintshire Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £102,593
2019-20 £89,342
2020-21 £166,444

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 81
2019-20 84
2020-21 84

Three highest payouts to members of the public:
£65,000 Cyclist injury
£47,904 Accident on icy road
£21,000 Slip on icy surface

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £20,799
2019-20 £17,113
2020-21 £229,505

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 6
2019-20 6
2020-21 9

Three highest payouts for employees:
£72,771, £72,382, £50,000 – no further details provided

Gwynedd Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £32,067
2019-20 £51,479
2020-21 £11,371

Number of claims paid out to the public:
2018-19 12
2019-20 21
2020-21 12

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£35,000 Slip on pontoon bridge
£15,000 Slip on algae on slipway
£8,150 Fall when step tipped forwards

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £13,653
2019-20 nil
2020-21 £10,063

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 2
2020-21 2

Three highest payouts for employees:
£9,653 Office trip head injury
£6,500 Finger caught between gate post and moving vehicle
£3,999 Industrial disease

Anglesey Council offices. Photo via Google

Isle of Anglesey Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £35,285
2019-20 £9,335
2020-21 £13,892

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 21
2019-20 10
2020-21 6

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£9,686 Trip injury
£8,542 Gym injury
£6,191 Data breach

Compensation paid out for employees: nil

Merthyr Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £52,562
2019-20 £67,204
2020-21 £1,943

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 5
2019-20 9
2020-21 1

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£16,000 Slip on ice in car park
£14,900 Tree on council land fell on private property
£7,500 Data breach

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 nil
2019-20 £23,014
2020-21 nil

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2019-20 2

Highest payouts for employees:
£6,600 Manual handling incident
£3,936 Manual handling incident

Monmouth Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £35,966
2019-20 £33,769
2020-21 £24,832

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 17
2019-20 23
2021-21 14

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£13,154 Data protection
£10,122 Pothole damage
£10,121 Personal injury

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £6,975
2019-20 nil
2020-21 nil

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 1

Highest payouts for employees:
£6,975 Slip/trip injury

Neath Port Talbot Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £102,400
2019-20 £142,457
2020-21 £263,456

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 40
2019-20 45
2020-21 38

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£80,000 Flooding to private property
£35,000 Social services failure to remove a young person from their home
£30,000 Slip/trip injury

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £27,577
2019-20 £23,594
2020-21 £80,000

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 2
2019-20 5
2020-21 4

Three highest payouts for employees:
£50,000 Hand/arm vibration syndrome
£21,000 Injury while using machinery/equipment
£20,000 Slip/trip injury

Newport City Hall. Picture by Roland Turner (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Newport Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £200,313
2019-20 £204,198
2020-21 £300,881

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 28
2019-20 23
2020-21 56

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£99,000 Back injury after falling down steps
£90,599 Cycle injuries
£63,000 Sexual abuse while in foster care decades ago

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £110,619
2019-20 £52,099
2020-21 £69,002

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 12
2019-20 8
2020-21 6

Three highest payouts for employees:
£50,000 Assault
£33,000 Assault
£32,000 Knee injury after falling on defective step

Pembrokeshire Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £9,095
2019-20 £19,090
2020-21 £11,335

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 34
2019-20 80
2020-21 69

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£7,060 Trip/fall injury
£3,370 Flood damage
£3,011 Damage to vehicle

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 nil
2019-20 £437
2020-21 nil

Highest payouts to employees:
£437 Damage to vehicle

Powys Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £232,972
2019-20 £190,852
2020-21 £98,373

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 93
2019-20 60
2020-21 44

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£109,971 Head injury
£28,000 Head injury
£27,500 Emotional damage caused by physical/sexual/emotional abuse

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £136,558
2019-20 £45,033
2020-21 £33,750

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 7
2019-20 3
2020-21 3

Three highest payouts for employees:
£65,758 Leg injury
£40,000 Head injury
£25,000 Various personal injuries

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
Not recorded in a format which could provide compensation payouts

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 99
2019-20 62
2020-21 44

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£82,000 Serious elbow fracture due to trip on defective school ramp
£60,000 Pothole fall knee injury
£25,000 Wrist break after pavement fall

Compensation paid out for employees:
Not recorded in a format which could provide compensation payouts

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 13
2019-20 11
2020-21 9

Three highest payouts for employees:
£136,710 Serious shoulder injury after falling down a client’s stairs
£13,486 Manual handling shoulder injury
£12,580 Fall on school stage

Swansea Council building

Swansea Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £309,325
2019-20 £333,072
2020-21 £353,117

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 50
2019-20 53
2020-21 41

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£84,221 Personal injury
£50,000 Structural damage
£41,774 Personal injury

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £140,019
2019-20 £31,330
2020-21 £95,698

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 17
2019-20 10
2020-21 10

Three highest payouts for employees:
£40,804 Personal injury
£45,000 Assault
£24,196 Fall injury

Torfaen Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £23,500
2019-20 £7,868
2020-21 £20,960

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 20
2019-20 20
2020-21 21

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£9,318 Injury caused by pothole fall
£8,299 Injury caused by pothole fall
£1,950 Playground equipment injury

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £10,736
2019-20 £9,450
2020-21 nil

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 4
2019-20 3

Three highest payouts for employees:
£7,350 Accident injury involving equipment
£5,577 Assault by school pupil

Vale of Glamorgan Council HQ. Photo via Google.

Vale of Glamorgan Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £289,289
2019-20 £209,850
2020-21 £110,518

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 85
2019-20 68
2020-21 57

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£75,000 Cyclist pothole injury
£40,000 Trip injury
£35,000 Cyclist pothole injury

Compensation paid out to employees:
2018-19 £28,607
2019-20 £20,928
2020-21 £3,500

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 5
2019-20 4
2020-21 1

Three highest payouts for employees:
£10,338 Back injury
£9,000 Twisted knee
£6,750 Back injury

Wrexham Council

Compensation paid out for members of the public:
2018-19 £189,521
2019-20 £376,958
2020-21 £306,548

Number of claims paid out to members of the public:
2018-19 148
2019-20 96
2020-21 52

Three highest payouts for members of the public:
£141,882 Flood damage
£67,085 Slip/trip injury
£62,179 Slip/trip injury

Compensation paid out for employees:
2018-19 £156,713
2019-20 £167,051
2020-21 £197,027

Number of claims paid out to employees:
2018-19 9
2019-20 10
2020-21 8

Three highest payouts for employees:
£97,370 School-related injury at a school
£78,575 Housing-related injury
£41,677 Road-related noise injury


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