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Smoothing path to help sight impaired
SWINDON Council has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of successful claims against them for injuries caused through poorly maintained pavements.
Figures obtained by charity Guide Dogs UK show local authorities across the country have spent more than £45m compensation in the four last years in total, with neighbouring Wiltshire Council forking out £450,000.
But over the past four years in Swindon, the council has paid just over £160,000, with not a penny paid in the last financial year – a dramatic drop from the £109,000 paid out in 2009/10.
Swindon Council says the reduction is due to a robust inspection system and the speed in which repairs are made.
The study was carried out to highlight concerns about the dangers faced by those who are either blind or partially sighted.
The chairman of Swindon Guide Dogs, Alan Fletcher, said that while Swindon does not stand out especially as a problem town, there are still improvements to be made.
“It varies in Swindon but it is just like most towns,” he said.
“Where a new building has gone up the surfaces are often very even so that is ok, but that doesn’t mean everywhere is ok.”
“The works done by utilities companies create one of the biggest problems because once they have completed their work they often do not return the ground to what it was before.”
A consequence of uneven pavements is often that people with sight problems can become isolated as they are afraid of leaving the house.
Alan said: “When the pavements are bad it leaves people concerned about going outside alone because of the risk of tripping.
“If no-one is about to help them they spend much of their time indoors.
“Uneven pavements are a problem so when I am walking I tend to slow-slide my feet to make sure I am confident where I am walking.
“It is a way of testing whether the paving is higher or lower.”
Another issue raised by the report is the problem of street obstructions, most notably advertising boards.
They often prove to be a real hazard as there is no set pattern to where they are located in the street.
Alan said: “What I would like to see is the removal of the advertising A-boards, which are problem.
“If you are using a stick it is very easy for it to get caught underneath and get stuck.
“Guide dogs generally prefer to walk in straight lines. When a street is full of A-boards it can be very difficult because you have to keep changing direction.”
A spokesman for Swindon Council said: “For an action to be defended successfully we need to be able to show that we have regular inspections of our pavements and when we detect a problem we react to fix them very quickly.
“The figures clearly show that we do both of these things very effectively.”
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “We carry out regular safety inspections of all footways and roads, and arrange for any safety defects to be repaired in a timely manner.
“We will continue to invest in this area to make sure footways are as safe as possible for the people who use them.”
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