Road budgets hit by austerity cuts ‘putting lives at risk’

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The Government’s austerity measures are “putting lives at risk” on the roads, a parliamentary advisory group said today.

As many as 65 per cent of English local authorities have seen reductions in the budget allocated to road safety engineering in the last 12 months, the survey by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) found.

And more than 62 per cent have seen a reduction in staffing between 2010/11 and 2011/12.

Councils were asked if the factors of staff numbers, staff skills, finance or organisation had put their statutory duty to promote road safety at risk. A total of 50 per cent of the local authorities answered “yes” to at least one of the factors.

This time last year, the Government published a strategic framework for road safety.

When asked about the impact of this framework, 44 per cent of local authorities thought it had had no effect on road safety, with 39 per cent believing that the impact had been negative.

The Pacts’ survey formed part of a Pacts’ report entitled Checking the Health of Road Safety.

Commenting on the report, Pacts’ executive director Robert Gifford said: “This report has a clear message to the Government: the focus on austerity is putting lives at risk. The years 2007-2010 saw substantial falls in road deaths. However, deaths rose in the first six months of 2011 and flatlined in the third quarter. This suggests that road deaths will rise in Britain in 2011 for the first time since 2003.”

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “I am not complacent about road safety even though Britain has some of the safest roads in the world. Road safety is a top priority and we are determined to dramatically reduce deaths and injuries still further.

“Our strategic framework sets out plans for improving safety for everyone who uses the roads.”