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Reporting local life since 1854

Monday, October 15, 2012

CROUCH HAS NO FEAR

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‘WE’RE GOING TO OLD TRAFFORD FULL OF CONFIDENCE...’

Legal bills account for half of money

Tributes paid to victim of crash

£1m COST OF FALL PAYOUTS

BY ALEX CAMPBELL

alex.campbell@thesentinel.co.uk

COMPENSATION claims for slips, trips and falls have cost a council almost £1 million in a year – with more cash pocketed by lawyers than the residents who were injured. Stoke-on-Trent City Council settled 86 claims for injuries caused by its negligence in 2011/12 – forking out £363,173 in compensation. But figures show ‘no-win, nofee’ lawyers representing claimants pocketed £337,445, while the council spent £291,422 on its own legal bills and fees. In at least 31 cases the amount spent to cover claimants’ legal fees was more than the compensation awarded by the court. One claimant won £1,250 compensation – only for their lawyers to receive £20,630 for winning the case. The biggest individual settlement in the last financial year saw one claimant receive £45,000, while their lawyers received

a further £19,250. Council leaders admit they take a “defensive” view on compensation claims, which could lead to more cases reaching court and running up costly legal bills. Imminent Government changes designed to deter spurious claims and tackle ‘compensation culture’ will lead to strict caps on the amount lawyers can claim. ‘No-win, no-fee’ solicitors currently bill councils and other public bodies for a ‘success fee’ to cover their costs if a claim is won. But in future they will have to cover their costs by taking up to 25 per cent of the total amount paid out in compensation. It is hoped the move will drive down council costs and reduce insurance bills, although critics say genuine claimants could miss out if legal firms pick and choose which cases they accept. Melissa Turner, aged 35, of Fenton, said: “If people are being injured because of something the council has done wrong then they should get compensation

and the council shouldn’t take it to court because obviously that’s where the money is going.” City council deputy leader, Councillor Paul Shotton, pictured below, who is also cabinet member for finance, said: “Over 70 per cent of claims are successfully defended without any costs being incurred by the council. “Stoke-On-Trent City Council takes a defensive stance against all claims which we believe are unjustified and we work closely with our insurers to make sure our legal costs are minimised.” Legal firms argue that the ‘no-win, no-fee’ system provides access to justice for people who cannot afford it. In the 2010/11 financial year, £4 million was paid in compensation to claimants by the region’s three main councils, including £1.7 million from Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Is the council right to fight claims? Email us at letters@ thesentinel.co.uk Comment: Page 10

FLOWERS have been left at the scene of a hit-and-run which left a woman dead. The tributes had mounted up by this morning following the fatal incident which happened in Leek on Friday. Police are now appealing for anyone who saw the incident to come forward so they can piece together the movements of the driver who fled the scene. The identity of the victim has not been officially confir med. See Page 3

PLANS: Potteries Shopping Centre.

No land sale for centre bid QUESTIONS have been raised about the future of a major retail development. It comes after a letter leaked from Stoke-on-Trent City Council shows the authority is refusing to sell land to the Potteries Shopping Centre. The centre needs to purchase the land in Hanley to press ahead with its plans for an extension. See Page 5

IS THIS THE SAVIOUR OF PORT VALE? SEE BACK PAGE

THEME PARK PLANS NEW £18M RIDE

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