Blame claims hit our pockets

Salt Ayre Sports Centre
Salt Ayre Sports Centre

Town Hall chiefs paid out £38,250 in three years to settle insurance claims – many of which it insists are “frivolous” – following accidents at leisure venues.

Lancaster City Council says that only a “very small number” of the 13 claims made were justified.

Claims it is currently disputing include one from someone who was hit in the face with a rugby ball at Happy Mount Park in Morecambe.

A Freedom of Information Request revealed that 13 claims were made against the council following alleged accidents between April 2009 and March 2012 – three of them involving children.

The council paid out on four occasions and settled out of court each time.

During the 2011/12 financial year it was forced to cough up £10,000 after someone’s foot slipped through a grate at Salt Ayre Sports Centre.

Other successful claims were made by someone who trapped their finger in a door at Williamson Park (£9,732), someone who tripped over railings at The Platform (£8,853) and someone who slipped on a wet step at Heysham Pool (£9,666).

The council disputed liability following claims from someone who stood on a nail in a piece of wood at Happy Mount Park and someone who injured their hand on a security gate at Salt Ayre Sports Centre.

Two other disputed claims relate to the Platform – a fall over a grill and an incident in which someone slipped on wet paving. Four claims are still being assessed by insurers and those assessments will help the council decide whether to dispute liability.

They are for a cut toe following an incident at Salt Ayre pool, a fall from playground equipment at Happy Mount Park and two incidents at Williamson Park – a trip on an uneven path and a slip on decking.

The council is this year spending £85,000 on public liability insurance across its venues, a £15,000 reduction on previous years.

Simon Kirby, its assistant head of community engagement (wellbeing), said public safety was its priority.

He said that regular risk assessments were carried out and that appropriate action was taken after genuine accidents. He said only a very small number of incidents leading to insurance claims were justified.

Mr Kirby added: “The ‘no win, no fee’ culture means claims are sometimes made for incidents for which no one is at fault.

“Frivolous claims only reduce the money available for other services.”