Road safety budgets cut by 15%

Councils in England slashed road safety budgets by an average of 15% last year, according to the latest figures.

The cuts compared with average reductions of just 6% for other council services, showed the statistics from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

Based on replies from 81 English councils, the statistics showed that cuts included reductions in rehabilitation courses for motoring offenders, training and information for young drivers, safe routes to schools schemes and school crossing patrols.

The IAM said spending on road safety saw huge variations, with Camden Council in London, for example, making cuts of more than 70%. At the same time, neighbouring Islington Council increased funding for road safety and traffic management by £134,000.

The IAM said spending was varied. As many as 30 councils had cut spending on road maintenance by more than 10%, but generally, road maintenance fared well with an overall increase of 0.37%. For example, Northumberland Council cut road maintenance by 63%, while Blackpool Council increased it by 34%.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "In difficult times, councils can be more innovative and flexible in their approach by working with the voluntary and private sectors to provide the services they can no longer afford.

"Austerity is forcing councils to make difficult choices, but the fact that these cuts only represent the first year of savings under the coalition's spending review is deeply worrying. Cutting road safety so hard makes no sense.

"The average wage of a lollipop lady is £3,000 a year while the cost of each road fatality is £1.6 million. So the returns on investment are huge."

He added: "Cuts of this scale risk lives as well as the UK's table-topping status as the best in the world for road safety. The Government needs to bring back casualty reduction targets so that councils make road safety a priority.

"I'm also concerned that patchy spending on maintenance will not keep pace with our crumbling roads."