Councils cut transport funding for pothole repairs and school crossings by £162M despite pocketing more from higher parking charges
Local authorities in England have slashed their total highway and transport budgets by £162 million for this year compared to last – a move that could have ‘fatal consequences’ for the nation’s drivers, according to a new AA investigation.
It said 62 per cent of councils have reduced outgoings on budgets for road maintenance to repair pothole-riddled routes, the running of street lights and patrols of school crossings in their areas compared to 12 months ago.
That comes despite councils’s increasing parking service revenue budgets by £42 million in the same period, thanks to increased hourly parking rates and hiked residential parking schemes across the country.
Road maintenance budget cuts: Almost £120 million has been slashed from road maintenance budgets by England’s 363 authorities in total – these funds are used to repair pothole highways and ageing signs as well as improve road safety
In total, councils informed the AA that they had trimmed £161,627,000 from their overall Highway and Transport Services budgets.
According to the new study, the average council transport budget for 2017/18 is £11.6 million. That compares to £12.1 million in 2016/17.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has made the most cut backs, slashing £40.2 million in total from their transport bills.
Hampshire, Derbyshire, Newham and Westminster made up to the top five councils making the most significant rollbacks.
The biggest chunk of the cuts have been made in road maintenance, used to tackle the nation’s increasing pothole pandemic.
Almost £120 million has been slashed in this area alone across the 363 authorities in total, it also funds environmental and safety maintenance to ensure the English road network runs efficiently.
The Greater London Authority made the biggest road maintenance funding cull, pulling a whopping £59.5 million from its scheme compared to the year previous.
North Yorkshire had the biggest cut-back outside the capital, at £6.2 million.
However, 101 councils – over a quarter of all local authorities in England – have upped their planned spending to repair potholes and ageing road signs in their areas.
Manchester council pushed £4.9 million extra into funding for the upkeep of roads, while Birmingham promised £3.8 million extra to its pot.
Across the whole of England, the only area where councils are expecting to see increases in transport budgets is through parking services thanks to increased costs for motorists to park by the hour our outside their homes.
Parking revenue budgets for 2017/18 have been hiked by £42 million – an average of £400,000 for each council – due to these increased charges for drivers.
But despite raking in this extra cash from parking schemes, councils are still making hefty cuts elsewhere.
Almost £120 million has been slashed from council’s road maintenance budgets in England for 2017/18 The Greater London Authority alone pulled almost £60 million from its road maintenance pot, which is used to repair potholed roads and replace battered signs
Budgets for street lighting, school patrols and winter services such as road gritters have also been reduced in the last year by £15.2 million, £10.3 million and £5.3 millions respectively.
Hampshire looked to enforce the biggest drop in street lighting funding of all the councils, at a rate of £3.6 million.
People in Lancashire and Leicestershire should also expect to experience more night-time blackouts, with their local authorities pulling £2.5 million and £1.9 million from street lighting budgets this year.
It’s a dangerous move, according to AA president Edmund King.
‘Dimming and switching off street lights is a subtle change which local authorities have chosen to take, but the consequences can be fatal,’ he said.
‘Coroners have confirmed 11 road deaths had been caused because street lights had been dimmed or switched off.’
Councils are looking to reduce budgets to cover the cost of street lighting with the implementation of more night-time blackouts across the nation
King added that the findings of the investigation will frustrate the country’s drivers, especially when they note that they are being charged extra to park in areas where road maintenance is being reduced.
‘It is clear local authority budgets are being squeezed and highways budgets are almost the first in line to be cut,’ King added.
‘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.’
Some £15.2 million has been cut from road safety education and safe routes budgets – including school crossing patrols – across England this year