Councils see drivers as wallets on wheels, says the AA

Drivers are being viewed as "wallets on wheels" as three-out-of-five English councils cut their highways budgets despite increases in parking revenue

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 13th July 2017, 6:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:41 am
One in four (24%) councils have reduced budgets
One in four (24%) councils have reduced budgets

Some 62% of local authorities have reduced their expenditure on services such as road maintenance, street lights and school crossing patrols since 2016/17, according to the AA.

But the motoring organisation found that more than 200 councils are seeking to increase their parking income by raising fees for on and off street parking and residential permit schemes.

AA president Edmund King said: "It is clear that local authority budgets are being squeezed and highways budgets are almost the first in line to be cut.

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"Drivers will be frustrated that in many councils the additional income from increased parking charges won't be reinvested in improving the state of local roads.

"Far too often drivers are viewed by every level of government as wallets on wheels. We think it is time to redress the balance and drivers get the investment needed to bring our roads back up to scratch."

AA research found that more than half (53%) of councils have cut their spending on roads maintenance, with the average decrease worth £900,000.

The Greater London Authority made the largest reduction at £59.5 million, while North Yorkshire has made the largest cut outside the capital at £6.2 million.

A third (33%) of local authorities have lowered their spending on the installation and running of street lights by an average of £300,000, which could lead to many lights being dimmed or switched off.

Meanwhile, one in four (24%) councils have reduced budgets - typically by £200,000 - for road safety education programmes and school crossing patrols.

Mr King said: "Councils which have cut school crossing patrols may not have thought about the consequences.

"Parents may decide that it is safer to drive their children to school rather than walk, which would increase traffic on the roads. It would also create frustration for residents living next to the school as more parents will park on their street."

"Dimming and switching off street lights is a subtle change which local authorities have chosen to take, but the consequences can be fatal."

Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said: "Councils take road safety seriously, and will have thoroughly risk assessed any decisions taken on road maintenance.

"Faced with an overall £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020, councils are having to make difficult spending decisions, including on road maintenance.

"It would take £12 billion and more than a decade to clear the current roads repair backlog we face as a nation. While councils repair a pothole every 19 seconds, only more central government funding can help them bridge the gap."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are providing councils in England more than £7.1 billion over six years until 2021 to upgrade roads and repair potholes.

"They must use this money effectively to keep surfaces in a good condition and deliver much-needed upgrades to cut congestion.

"On top of this, we announced plans for a new major road network just last week, giving councils access to a multi-billion pound fund to improve or replace the most important A-roads in their area."