POTHOLE damage payouts by West Sussex County Council almost doubled last year, the Observer can reveal.
A Freedom of Information request has shown the highways authority was forced to stump up £50,677 in compensation to motorists whose vehicles were damaged, after dealing with 1,118 claims.
This compares with a £26,435 payout in 2012 after receiving 524 claims.
In 2011, 608 claims were made and £35,702 was handed out.
Defending the figures, the county council has blamed the extremes of weather which hit the area last January, forcing the county council’s pothole portfolio holder Pieter Montyn to admit the situation was once again out of control.
While the number of claims has climbed, the average successful compensation claim value for pothole damage has dropped, says the county council, from £58.72 in 2011 to £45.32 in 2013.
Observer readers have made repeated calls for urgent action to end the ‘third world’ pothole shame of county roads over the past five years.
In 2009 a Milland cyclist received horrific injuries after hitting a 13cm-deep monster and being catapulted over his handlebars.
There have been reports of pothole misery across the area and last year readers expressed concerns about Woolbeding, Milland, Redford, Trotton, the A272 to Petersfield, at Easebourne, Midhurst and the road between Midhurst and Petworth.
Potholes have also caused a storm in Bognor Regis and Chichester where residents took to social network site Facebook to attack the council over the number of dangerous roads.
In January last year, Cllr Montyn said the council was dealing with the havoc caused by some of the worst wet weather for over a century and could not get on top of the situation overnight.
WSCC repaired around 40,000 potholes in the first seven months of the year on its 2,476 miles of road.
A spokesman said the weather had a ‘significant impact’ on road surfaces.
“At times we had 12 pothole patrol gangs on duty making the roads safe,” he said.
At the end of last year the county council announced a £30m spending boost for road maintenance. The money will primarily pay for improvements to unclassified roads which make up 55 per cent of the county’s road network.
Cllr Montyn said: “This is a really sound use of capital financing because there will be benefits not just in terms of improved roads, but also this investment will help reduce our maintenance costs.”