FIFE COUNCIL have been accused of wasting taxpayers' money by spending "more than £10,000" to fight a compensation claim for £890.

Single mum Laura Niven's car was damaged after hitting a pothole at the junction of Coal Road and Pittencrieff Street in Dunfermline in February 2020.

She couldn't afford the £1,000 repair bill but a two-year battle for compensation ended in failure and criticism from the consumer champion who took up her case.

Scott Dixon, who specialises in motoring disputes, said it was a pyrrhic victory for the council: "They may take the view that they're entitled to protect taxpayer money from fraudulent claims but to pay for both sides for two years to fight a relatively low-level pothole case, where's the logic in that?

"The claim was for £890 and they've easily spent more than £10,000. How many potholes could they have repaired with the money they've spent on this?

"It hasn't cost Laura anything, she's out of pocket for the repair bill to her car but she's on benefits so hasn't lost anything in taking this case forward.

"The only loser is the taxpayer."

He continued: "From a risk-based perspective, you have to factor in the sums involved and the costs in dealing with it.

"For local government, they have to assess whether it's a good use of taxpayers' money.

"They threw everything at it to defeat this claim and for what? The money that's been wasted is incredible.

"The lead solicitor has spent more than 35 hours working on the case since July 2020 and has a £300 per hour call out charge, that's £10,500 right there."

After Laura's initial claim was turned down, the case went to Dunfermline Sheriff Court in October 2021.

When the decision went against Laura, an appeal was submitted and heard last month at Perth Sheriff Court.

The judgement was in the council's favour.

Mr Dixon said: "The solicitor called me to try and talk me out of taking the case to appeal, saying that costs would be awarded against Laura.

"That wasn't true, she's on benefits so doesn't pay anything, so why wouldn't we go ahead?

"But he was on the phone for an hour and 13 minutes and at his charge rate of £300 an hour plus VAT it worked out at £365.

"Then you've got the mechanic report, it cost about £300 and they then retracted it, and the appeal costs were £300.

"That's £900-odd and includes a pointless phone call and a report they didn't even use."

A Freedom of Information request discovered that in 2020, there were 367 claims made against Fife Council for pothole damage and just four were successful – just over one per cent of all claims.

And, between April 2020 and May 2021, Mr Dixon discovered that Fife Council handled 51,534 complaints relating to potholes, but just £597 was paid out in compensation during the financial year 2020-21.

He said Fife was "the worst" local authority in Scotland to deal with over pothole compensation claims and added: "They just fob you off with shutdown answers and misleading information."

He added: "That is the real scandal. There is never enough money to repair and maintain the roads, yet there is a bottomless pit of money to continually throw tar into holes and fight all claims from motorists.

"Obviously, Fife Council's policy is just to decline all claims and if anyone wants to take it further they'll fight you to the bitter end."

Fife Council's Clare Whyte, risk management team leader, said: "We assess all claims on their own merit and will pay compensation if a claimant can show that the council has been negligent or breached a statutory duty.

"If the available information shows that the council isn't at fault, the claim will be turned down.

"While we always try to reach agreement with claimants, this isn't always possible and some will choose to ask the court to decide.

"Where this happens, we'll always follow legal advice and defend the case if there's no evidence that we're legally liable to pay compensation.

"In this case, the court found in favour of the council and the decision was upheld when it was appealed.

"Although the council was awarded expenses, we didn't pursue the award."