Councils see drivers as wallets on wheels, says the AA

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Drivers are being viewed as “wallets on wheels” as three-out-of-five English councils cut their highways budgets despite increases in parking revenue, a study has warned.

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.

“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.”

PIC: James Hardisty

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