Council crashes costing ratepayers $160,000 a year

AT least three Newcastle and Lake Macquarie council vehicles are sent to smash repairers every week on average, costing ratepayers in the two council areas more than $160,000 a year.

Lake Macquarie City Council vehicles are involved in minor accidents once a week on average. The accidents cost the council an average of $78,400 a year, figures over five years show.

Those costs could not be claimed on insurance because they were below the council’s $2500 excess, a Lake Macquarie council spokeswoman said.

At Newcastle City Council, about 110 minor vehicle incidents a year have cost it an average of $83,693 a year over the past three years.

Lake Macquarie council has appointed three smash repairers as preferred tenderers to fix vehicles damaged in minor accidents.

‘‘The tender was for smash repair services for accident damage caused to council vehicles and third-party vehicles, where council is deemed to be at fault,’’ a council statement said.

The tender was for damage bills estimated below the council’s $2500 insurance excess.

Lake Macquarie council said the average number of minor incidents in the past five years was ‘‘56 a year with an average cost of $1400 a repair’’.

Lake Macquarie council has 608 vehicles in its fleet.

Newcastle City Council said minor vehicle incidents cost it an average of $83,693 a year over the past three years.

Most of those costs were smash-repair bills, a Newcastle council spokeswoman said.

Insurance did not cover those costs because they were below the council’s $2000 excess.

Newcastle council recorded 87 incidents in 2009-10, 140 incidents in 2010-11 and 102 incidents in 2011-12 that were below the excess.

‘‘Those were the council’s out of pocket expenses,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘They were not just for vehicle accidents, but might involve stone chips on windows and dents.’’

Newcastle council has 629 vehicles in its fleet.

A Newcastle council statement said its vehicle maintenance program included ‘‘regular vehicle evaluations, resulting in an increased level of repairs’’.

‘‘Undertaking repairs to vehicles is a necessary process to ensure that the fleet is presented in the best possible condition to maximise the sale return,’’ it said.

Newcastle council had introduced ‘‘several new initiatives’’ to reduce costs, including ‘‘alternate methods of repair, continual monitoring and improved driver education and awareness campaigns’’.

‘‘The result of these programs has been a decrease in the amount of repairs,’’ it said.

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