Formal complaints about Fife Council over single mum’s pothole case

THE pothole champion fighting a Dunfermline woman’s corner over an £1,100 compensation claim said Fife Council have breached data protection rules.

Scott Dixon, who specialises in motoring disputes, received an apology from the local authority but has now made two formal complaints about their handling of the case.

Tthe council failed to respond to a freedom of information (FOI) request within 20 working days and he also reported them to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after they shared his personal email address by mistake.

Scott said: “It’s simply costing Fife taxpayers more money than the claim itself in dragging this out with reviews, investigations and time spent in frustrating and delaying the process.”

He offered to help single mum Laura Niven for free after her Kia Ceed suffered £1,100 of damage when she hit a pothole filled with water on Pittencrieff Street, as she turned onto Coal Road, on February 28.

Four days earlier, during a routine inspection, the council had identified it as a category 2 pothole which gives them five working days to carry out a repair.

It hadn’t been done by the time Laura’s car hit the crater but the council’s claims handler, a firm called Gallagher Bassett, said that “as the council has a reasonable inspection and repair system in place we do not consider they will be held legally responsible for this unfortunate incident”.

As a result they said they could not offer financial compensation.

Scott took the case further and was mistakenly copied into an email titled ‘compensation claim – further press interest’.

He complained and told the council: “My email address was shared not in direct relation to a claim, but rather to warn of possible adverse publicity connected to a claim.

“It’s clear to me that Gallagher Bassett as the claims handlers are not impartial adjudicators when it comes to dealing with pothole claims and work in cahoots with Fife Council to delay, frustrate and ultimately decline as many claims as possible to save Fife Council money on pay-outs.”

Karen Pearson, the council’s data protection specialist, wrote to him: “I can confirm that unfortunately Fife Council have shared your personal email address internally in error.

“This was an unintentional oversight by Fife Council.

“On behalf of Fife Council, I would like to sincerely apologise for this error and involving you in this incident.”

She confirmed there was a breach of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as “sharing your email address internally was not necessary for the performance of the task being carried out in the exercise of official authority by Fife Council”.

Scott had argued that the firm had also breached the rules but was told: “As our claim handlers, Gallagher Bassett process data on our behalf and passed your email to us as part of that process.

“Once it was received by Fife Council, it was shared internally in error.”

Gallagher Bissett also told him that “our position remains that we do not accept that there has been a breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 or the GDPR here”.

However, he did not accept this and made a formal complaint to the ICO.

He had also submitted an FOI request to the council on July 20 about the pothole but did not receive a response, leading to the second formal complaint.

He said: “Laura never stood a chance given the obstacles I have been faced with throughout.

“It’s now apparent why only 10 per cent of pothole claims are honoured by Fife Council.

“Gallagher Bassett say that Fife Council maintain a reasonable inspection and maintenance system, yet Fife Council refuse to answer a few questions to confirm that.”

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