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YOUR £5m BILL BY ALEX CAMPBELL

alex.campbell@thesentinel.co.uk

ALMOST £5 million of taxpayers’ money has been paid out by councils to ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers who have won compensation claims over three years. Figures obtained by The Sentinel show £4 million was paid in compensation to individual claimants by the region’s three main councils. But over the same period, solicitors representing those claimants netted more than £4.7 million in costs. The three-year figures reveal: ■ Stoke-on-Trent City Council has paid £1.7 million compensation to the public and £2.2 million in costs to solicitors; ■ Staffordshire County Council has paid £1.7 million compensation and £1.6 million in legal costs; ■ Cheshire East Council has paid £587,000 in compensation and £856,000 in legal costs.

True cost of ‘compensation culture’ as lawyers rake it in The data reveals scores of cases where legal costs have out-stripped pay-outs. The cases include: ■ A claimant receiving £4,250 for a leg injury on Staffordshire County Council property while the legal firm picked up £18,000; ■ A claimant receiving £17 for an eye injury while the lawyer got £2,480; ■ A claimant who broke a bone on a faulty footpath got £4,000 while their lawyer pocketed £23,000. The data, which contains the most upto-date three-year figures for each council, has been released as the Government pledges to tackle Britain’s burgeoning “compensation culture”.

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Draft legislative changes put forward by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke are set to stop lawyers claiming “success fees” from the losing side in liability cases. Instead, they would receive a share of the damages. But legal firms say the costs are justified because some cases are complex and the current rules help poorer clients make claims. A spokesman for Stoke-on-Trent’s Attwood Solicitors said: “We’re not taking money from local authorities without justification. “A lot of the time, more careful repairs may lead to these claims being avoided.”

The figures reveal members of the public made 1,505 claims against the city council between April 2008 and the end of March. Of those, 1,042 were rejected at no cost to the authority. In the same period, 168 claims were made by the council’s employees, with 39 of them knocked back. Paul Simpson, the council’s business services director, said: “Once we have established the legitimacy of all claims, the information is sent to the council’s insurers. They consider all claims on their legal merits and communicate directly with the claimant or the claimant’s solicitors. “The vast majority of claims are rejected, but some unsuccessful claimants do take the council to court and it is then for the court to determine which party is liable, based on the evidence available.” Lawyers defend themselves: See Page 6

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