More than £1 million is set to be paid out in claims against Hertfordshire County Council for minor injuries and property damage on the roads in 2017/18, it has emerged.

The insurance claims – some of which are yet to be settled – were reported to a recent meeting of the council’s highways and environment cabinet panel.

And at that meeting Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Jarvis questioned an apparent council “target” to reject at least four out of five claims.

Residents can make a claim against the council for any damage incurred to themselves or their property, that the council is responsible for.

On the highways, that can typically include an injury to a pedestrian who slips or trips as a direct result of a neglected fault on a road or pavement. Or it can include residents whose property is damaged by overhanging vegetation or a driver whose car is damaged after going over a pothole.

According to data presented to the cabinet panel on July 1, around 276 minor injury claims were made against the council in 2017/18.

And these resulted in payouts (that are settled or pending) expected to total £867,368 – equivalent to an average payout of £3,142 per claim.

In addition, there were 1,866 property claims made in 2017/18 – resulting in payouts ( that are settled or pending) expected to total £280,721.04, which is an average payout of £150 per claim.

However, the data also shows that most of the claims made against the council are rejected.

Of the 276 minor injury claims made, 58 per cent were rejected. And of the 1866 property claims made against the council, 84 per cent were rejected.

At the meeting of the cabinet panel, Cllr Steve Jarvis questioned the reference in the report to an 80 per cent or above ‘target’ for rejected claims.

And he said this ‘rejection’ target made it appear that the council is seeking to avoid paying out.

“It looks as if the objective is to reject as many as we can,” he said.

“Council policy should be as few deficiencies as possible – and we should pay every valid claim.

“This looks like a mechanism that’s trying to avoid paying out as many times.”

Councillors at the meeting were told claims were always considered in terms of whether the service had failed and to ask, ‘is it a legitimate claim because we have failed to deliver the right level of service’.

And they were told they set this target to ensure that they were delivering the right level of service.”

Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said there was not an 80 per cent target within the insurance team – and that claims were settled according to the council’s legal obligation.

“The 80 per cent referred to at the highways and environment cabinet panel relates to benchmarking current trends in insurance claims against historic data,” she said.

“This enables the service to proactively identify fluctuations in insurance claims, identify the causes and adjust budgets accordingly.”

According to the report to the cabinet panel, the figures for 2017/18 are likely to change retroactively, as claims that are currently open are settled.