Sunderland City Council risk manager Dave Francis explains why compensation culture might be more than just perception

We have had some success in recent years in reducing the number of claims. One reason could be that we are managing to prevent accidents turning into claims. We have an 84% satisfaction rating from our employees, which is quite high given their circumstances.

On rehabilitation, we have an in-house occupational health team and we are able to provide counselling by third-party companies. This has helped us cut, for instance, ill-heath retired numbers from 150 seven years ago to 37 now.

On public liability, we turn most of our claims down. About 80% are to do with highways. We take the first £100,000 of each claim, so we have a big incentive to manage these risks.

We are inspecting above the level of the codes of practice. We have made efforts to improve the level of paperwork so that our solicitors could defend us properly. We trained all of our highways inspectors using mock trials and technical seminars to make them better prepared.

We aggressively defend claims and go to appeal over a £1,500 claim - so we are not an easy touch. We ignore our solicitors' advice to settle where litigation risks are 80/20.

We use more tarmac and have privatised traffic wardens who crack down on those parking incorrectly and maybe are damaging pavements.