Hundreds of thousands of pounds is being diverted from front-line services to pay for compensation claims made against the council.

More than £45,000 a month was spent settling claims between April and November last year including incidents in schools, on the roads and in the borough's open spaces.

£367,741.90 over an eight month period was spent on claims relating to public liability, employer's liability and third party motor claims.

This includes 20 payouts for 'accidents on the highway' totalling more than £46,000, a payout of £3,525 after 'poor housing maintenance' caused injury and five settlements totalling just over £8,000 for 'accidents in open spaces.'

The information came to light after UKIP councillor Suzanne Evans asked for data to be made public following a meeting in November last year.

While frustrated that this money could be better spent by the council, she also questioned people's motivation in depriving the community by making such claims.

Coun Evans said that she would not have dreamt of suing the council after she tripped on a Wimbledon Hill Road pavement and hurt her wrist last year. Coun Evans said: "I should have been paying more attention.

"We should be taking responsibility ourselves.

"It is an appalling amount of money that we can't afford to be paying out.

"The more we pay out on compensation, the less we have for front line services.

"The council needs to get a grip on it."

In the largest of the payouts, £96,986.50 was paid to nine recipients who suffered damage to their homes caused by trees.

Three claims were paid out to members of schools staff who had been injured at work, totalling £57,385.

In response cabinet member for finance Councillor Mark Allison said former Conservative Coun Evans' defection to UKIP last year was a bigger waste of funds.

He said: "The council is self-insured which is a way of actually saving us money in the long run.

"Of course we'd rather there weren't any accidents at all, but if Coun Evans wants to stop people getting compensation if they are injured or disabled at work or as a result of an accident she's being very nasty.

"It's no wonder she fell out with other councillors in the last party she was in.

"She should be compensating the people of Merton who are having to pay tens of thousands of pounds for the new political party she set up after she fell out with them, rather than criticising those people who really need compensation."