INJURY compensation claims have cost Waltham Forest council tax payers nearly half a million pounds over the past five years, the Guardian can reveal.

Dodgy pavements were responsible for most of the £424,167 given to successful claimants, including the biggest payment of £23,500 for one accident alone.

Other bumper payouts included £21,634 for slipping on a manhole cover and £17,000 for a trip on a controlled crossing.

The figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act and detail the kinds of injuries which led to successful claims but not how they happened.

The council’s legal department has received 609 claims since 2003 and paid up on 130 of them.

As well as tripping on pavements, people were injured in bus accidents and in one case by wire placed by council workers around a tree.

Several of the injuries happened in Walthamstow Market and others in parks, schools and council buildings.

It is increasingly easy to make personal injury claims as growing numbers of companies take on such cases on a “no win no fee basis.”

However, the council has managed to reduce the amount of money paid out for injuries in five years and have started replacing paving stones with tarmac to reduce accidents.

In 2003, 57 claims were successful, costing taxpayers £211,00, whereas in 2006 the amount was £66,346.

So far only two claims have succeeded in 2007/8 but the full damage will not be known for some time as many claims are still in process.

Despite all this, not enough is being done, according to the leader of the opposition, Cllr Matt Davis.

He said an extra £15million lump summ plus a further £5m a year for a number of years, was needed to bring the borough’s roads and pavements up to scratch.

Cllr Davis said: “Finding £15m would be difficult but we could find the extra five million.

"The current administration wastes huge amounts of money on insane pieces of political correctness or social engineering instead of things that really matter.”

But he added there was nothing a change in administration could do to stop “have a go Herberts” trying their luck, and it was usually cheaper for the council to pay up than go to court.

Cllr Keith Rayner, cabinet member for finance, Risk and Governance, said: “In law, personal injury claims can be instigated up to three years after the incident.

“Obviously, these claims can then take similar lengths of time to proceed through the courts, depending on how complex the claim is.”