ALMOST 90 per cent of the money paid out by Bournemouth council's insurers in compensation claims is for prangs by the authority's own drivers.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that since January 2007 Bournemouth paid out £51,197 for accidents.

The costliest incident saw a lease car reverse into an "unusual vehicle" in Parkstone in July, causing £9,168 of damage.

And council staff seemed to have a particular problem with manoeuvring - collisions with "fixed objects" and reversing claims cost £29,742.

Refuse trucks made up 31 of the claims, costing £5,244.

And a council sweeper hit a shop in Westbourne, ending up in a successful claim for £3,138.

The council's deputy leader, Cllr John Beesley, said: "As a local authority operating hundreds of vehicles to provide services to the local community it is inevitable that some incidents may occur.

"However, we will continually strive to improve our standards and have recently introduced a driving at work policy."

He also said the council successfully defends 75 per cent of highways claims, and that re-tendering its insurance saved some £560,000.

The compensation figures showed non-motoring claims cost the council £6,254.

They included £602 after a golf ball from the third tee of Queens Park Course hit a car, and £169 after an iPod was stolen from a school.

Tree roots cost another £2,898 for three successful claims.

The national stereotype claim for compensation against councils in Britain seems to be fruitless in Bournemouth- not a single penny has been paid out despite 23 trip and fall claims on council footways.

Cllr Beesley added: "Our insurers investigate all claims thoroughly and are constantly mindful it is public money which is involved.

"They have a duty to weigh evidence carefully and only settle proven claims.

"As an area rich in parks, open spaces and tree-lined avenues, some damage caused by tree roots is to be expected."