Clare County Council paid out a total of €10.6 million in insurance premium costs, the equivalent of €89 per each resident of County Clare over the last five years.
The figure represents an almost 39 per cent increase in the council’s annual insurance premia in the space of five years, from €1.7 million in 2014 to over €2.3 million last year.
During this period, the largest annual expenditure occurred in 2017, when €2.5 million was handed over to cover insurance related costs.
According to Clare County Council, public liability claims against the local authority continue to play a major part in the rising expenses associated with its annual insurance premium costs.
Councillor Pat McMahon (FF) has raised his concerns over the “spiralling costs of insurance” and the ‘compo culture’ that exists throughout the country.
The local representative claimed that the vast majority of people he knows “would go to hospital and still wouldn’t consider putting in an insurance claim” against Clare County Council, a way of life that Cllr McMahon believes is evident amongst the older generation due to “the way many people were brought up”.
“I hope this isn’t dying out,” said the concerned councillor.
The Newmarket-on-Fergus councillor also expressed his frustration over the minority of people in the county who subject Clare County Council to fraudulent insurance claims, leading to increasing insurance related costs for the local council.
“I have no problem with people claiming when there is a genuine trip or slip,” he said.
Cllr McMahon believes that the “ongoing problem” of ever-increasing costs is not just unique to Clare County Council, but a nationwide issue that has resulted in “worrying” annual insurance premia costs.
In response, Clare County Council said that a number of strategies are currently in place which are intended to reduce risk and in turn help reduce insurance costs.
The local council confirmed that it is “conscious” of the need to try and reduce the number of insurance claims being submitted and that a total of €1.6 million was set aside last year to facilitate improvement works on ‘defective footpaths’ throughout the county.
“The criteria used to determine the content of the programme focused on locations where footpath conditions posed a risk to users or where there was a history of occurrence of mishaps or accidents or the submission of public liability claims,” explained Clare County Council director of service, Carmel Kirby.
“By far the most significant driver of fluctuation in insurance costs is the public liability claims component.
“IPB [Insurance] have introduced a fraud team to its staff in recent years to rigorously pursue fraudulent claims to help reduce the financial burden of such claims on local authorities,” she added.
A total of just over €1.7 million was paid out by Clare County Council in 2016 in terms of insurance claims, while in 2017 such claims cost the local authority €845,134.