180910 FoIA to Highways England re Inflating Claims & a ‘Lot of Effort’

10/09/2018 FoIA Request To Highways England HE Ref:768,003 (768003) / ICO Ref: FS50803075

Your lawyers, Corclaim (Shakespeare Martineau LLP) wrote in respect of Coles v Hetherton in 2014 (see below), seemingly before they were instructed by Kier Highways Ltd and yourselves to pursue claims against drivers, fleets and insurers.

Corclaim refers to the process as ‘inflating claims’. Highways England and their contractors engage Corclaim who utilise the decision. It appears the moral dilemma is not one that concerns your Public Authority whose role is to serve their public.

The article below appears to have been written from the perspective of Corclaim acting for fleet managers. On the one hand, Corclaim act for fleets using the ‘Coles’ argument. On the other, they engage the same decision when pursuing fleets and their insurers in your name for repairs to Crown Property such as barriers.

1. Please provide all information you possess about the consideration to utilise Corclaim and support their use of a process identified as ‘inflating claims for profit’ when pursing drivers, fleets and insurers following damage to Crown Property.

Additionally, I ask to be provided:

2. The due diligence process used pre- engagement of law firms by Highways England
3. The due diligence undertaken pre- engagement of Corclaim
4. The number of claims involving Court hearings following which Corclaim have remitted monies to Highways England for the past 3 years.
5. In what respect are Corclaim acting for Highways England when:

You do not instruct them
You do not pay them
6. How many highway claims are currently being progressed to Court and of these
7. For how many do Corclaim act?
Your contractors and Corclaim step into the shoes of the Public Authority yet appear to gain all of the benefits without the accountability (for example, they are not subject to FoIA)
What reviews or considerations have been undertaken about the conduct of Corclaim by Highways England:
8. Please provide all information.

The information will extend to:

9. All information resulting from the ‘effort’ put into reconciling past costs as referred to by Jim O’Sullivan in 2016, the processes, outcome and simplification that has resulted:

From: O’Sullivan, Jim
Sent: 21 November 2016 17:04
To: Philip Swift <pswift@cmaclaims.co.uk>
Subject: Your Ref: Kier Highways Ltd (‘Kier’) ref GC\026142 Our Ref: U02A567

Thanks for your note. I also want to ensure that drivers only pay appropriately for the damage they do to Crown property. I’m sure the current process could be simpler and I know Tim and Nick will be working to achieve this. We are certainly putting a lot of effort into reconciling the past costs that you are talking about.

The above appears at odds with the method of inflating claims described, engaged in your name by your lawyers.

The request was denied, the Authority cited the ‘vexatious’ exemption.

06/01/2020 the ICO found against the Authority.  The full Decision Notice text can be read here and the notice can be seen here:  FS50803075 – signed DN