Latest figures reveal victims of asbestos-related diseases have won £1.8m in damages from Greater Manchester councils in recent years which is continuing to soar.

Throughout Greater Manchester, town hall bosses are facing a ‘ticking timebomb’ of increasing claims from people struck down with conditions linked to harmful asbestos.

An M.E.N investigation has found that Manchester council paid out almost £600,000 in damages to victims in the last year alone.

The 2013/14 claims had to be settled using taxpayers’ money, rather than through insurance as the cases predated the 1980s when the council did not have asbestos cover.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information requests reveal victims of asbestos-related diseases have won a total of £1.8m in damages from councils in Greater Manchester in recent years.

Campaigners believe payments are likely to rise over the coming decade as more people fall ill and die after being exposed to the material.

The report also reveals some worrying statistics:

  • 1,500 people have died from mesothelioma in Greater Manchester in the last 30 years

  • 90 people died from mesothelioma in Greater Manchester in 2011

  • £1.8 million has been paid out in damages across the region so far.

  • 700 schools in the region still contain asbestos

  • £150,000 was paid by Bury council to a fireman exposed to asbestos

  • 500% rise in cases since 1982

The compensation claims came from victims who inhaled asbestos fibres in buildings like schools, offices and community centres. Once inhaled the fibres are permanently lodged in the lungs and can cause mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, which attacks the lining of organs and is always fatal.

The number of people killed by the disease has soared by 500 per cent in the last 30 years – with new cases expected to peak in 2020.

The number of people killed by the asbestos-related cancer has soared by 500 per cent between 1982 and 2011.

Figures, released by the Health and Safety Executive, show that 90 people died of mesothelioma in Greater Manchester in 2011 – compared to 15 in 1982.

Deaths from the asbestos-related cancer, which is always fatal, peaked at 100 in 2010, according to the statistics.

Graham Dring, coordinator of Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, said: “Compensation payouts will probably rise as new mesothelioma cases continue to increase.

“The dangers of asbestos have been known about for decades but too often ignored.

“The epidemic we see now was a man-made disaster and avoidable. Profits were put before the health and safety of working men and women who are the ones paying the price for employer and political negligence.”

At least 1,600 of the region’s local authority buildings – including 700 schools – still contain asbestos, which was widely-used in the construction industry from the 1950s until the 1990s.

It is thought the majority of asbestos victims to date will have been construction workers – although Mr Dring said he expected professions like teachers, office workers and caretakers to be increasingly affected in the future.

Between them, the region’s councils have spent millions managing asbestos over the last five years – including carrying out repair work on buildings and surveys in schools.

But Mr Dring said: “The risks will continue if the dangers of asbestos in our public buildings is not taken seriously.

“In an ideal world, asbestos should be stripped from all public buildings, especially schools, where there is risk of children being exposed. In an era of financial restraints, this may not be realistic in the short term.

“However, we think local authorities should have a programme and targets for removing asbestos where and when they can.”

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK organised a lobby recently at the Labour conference in Manchester – calling for guaranteed research funding, paid for by a levy on insurers and matched by Government funding, to find a cure for mesothelioma.

They are also demanding full compensation for victims who cannot find an employer or insurer under the ‘Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments Scheme’ – rather than the current 80 per cent paid out.

If you or a family member have been affected by mesothelioma, please contact us today on 0800 294 3065, or talk to us on live chat where we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.