Lancashire County Council has paid out almost £700,000 to people with conditions linked to asbestos in the past four years. County Hall shelled out £672,094 in compensation and costs to victims in the past five years – and the authority has six ongoing claims.
Preston City Council also paid out £14,246.59, statistics revealed to the Evening Post. Figures obtained under Freedom of Information requests reveal 17 people have contacted Lancashire County Council regarding asbestos claims since 2010.
Of those there were three pay-outs, five cases where there was no payout and six ongoing claims – with one of those receiving a £50,000 interim damages payment.
The compensation claims came from victims who breathed in asbestos fibres. It can cause mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, which attacks the lining of organs and is fatal.
All but one of the claimants were employed by the county council and all the claims related to time frames from the 1950s and onwards.
Twelve of the cases related to mesothelioma, one to asbestos -related cancer, one to asbestosis and one is listed as industrial disease. Their jobs at the council included roadsman, plasterer, cook, heating engineer, a factory worker and teachers.
Meanwhile of the two cases Preston Council dealt with they only paid out compensation in one of them. The authority was unable to provide information on where in the council the two claimants had worked. The claimants had mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Campaigners believe payments are likely to soar over the coming decade as more people fall ill and die after being exposed to the material, often decades ago. Geraldine Coombs, a partner and expert asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said:
“Asbestos exposure is often regarded as something that only impacts those working within heavy industry, but the presence of the material in so many public buildings such as schools and hospitals, means that more and more people who are not working in traditional construction trades are being affected through no fault of their own.
We have repeatedly called for a dedicated programme to identify any public buildings around the UK that contain asbestos and continue to pose a danger to those working in them, as well as calling for a schedule to systematically remove asbestos from these premises on a priority basis depending on the state of disrepair in each situation.
Given the vulnerability of children to the potential dangers of asbestos – we would suggest schools are given the highest priority in any action that may be taken.”
Bev Cullen, assistant county solicitor for Lancashire County Council, said:
“Each claim is considered on its own facts and will be investigated in accordance with the county council’s insurance arrangements.
Claims payments are made either from the council’s own reserves set aside for this purpose, our insurers, or a combination of the two. It depends on the date of the exposure, and the insurance arrangements that the county council had in place at the time.
Claims will be investigated when they’re received. Generally the exposure date goes back many decades, so it is difficult to assess future numbers.”