LANCASHIRE County Council’s education chief has hit back over concerns raised about an £800,000 compensation payment to a teaching assistant injured after tripping over a wheelchair.

The council paid £660,000 in damages and £140,000 costs to an employee, who cannot be named for legal reasons, after they tripped over the waist strap of an empty wheelchair, suffering a dislocated finger and an injury to the elbow.

The council has faced criticism over the amount paid out, particularly from others who received substantially smaller payments.

But county council director for education Bob Stott said many factors were taken into account when deciding on a compensation payout.

He said: “We would prefer it that no one was ever hurt in an accident while at school, of course, but in a county the size of Lancashire, with more than 600 schools and almost 18,000 teachers and teaching assistants, it is to be expected that there will be some incidents resulting in injuries, thankfully mostly minor.

“We are always vigilant and work with schools whenever we can to improve health and safety and reduce the potential for accidents.

“When the county council receives a claim for compensation it has to make a decision regarding its liability, and defend or settle the case as appropriate.

“This may lead to a compensation payment being made, taking into account many factors, which may include loss of earnings or after-effects of injury in years to come.”

The payout, which was one of the highest in the country, was one of 12 to school staff in Lancashire last year, costing taxpayers more than £1.3m.