A 43% cut to the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership’s budget could lead to an increased number of serious accidents, according to council officers and road safety campaigners, the Brighton Argus reports.
Among the likely cuts mentioned by the paper is cycle training for children - however in its response to the coalition government's comprehensive spending review the Department for Transport said that funding for such training under the Bikeability scheme was protected. However, the government also gave councils more freedom to spend their budgets as they saw fit. An illustration perhaps of what happens to national objectives when control for their funding and implementation is handed down to local level? Perhaps.
The newspaper also says that according to the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, the £1.4 million cut to its £3.3 million budget for the current financial year may not be the end of the cuts as no assurances have been given as to the level of funding for next year.
Among the casualties of the cuts are plans to put flashing speed signs and crossings close to schools in Brighton and Hove as the £23,000 budget for the work has been scrapped completely.
Plans to spend more than £400,000 on new speed cameras have been abandoned, while maintenance costs on existing cameras have been cut by 20%, reports the Argus.
Other victims of the cuts include schemes to train children to cross the road, as well assessment of driving instructors and the Pass Plus scheme – all of which lose more than 50% of their budget.
A report presented to Brighton and Hove City Council from road safety manager, Phil Clarke, said: “The savings of the latest round of cuts will compound the already significant impact on road safety being promoted by the partnership.
“It should be noted that any reduction in camera activity, including the long term effect of maintenance cuts, could lead to an increase in vehicle speeds, which in turn could lead to more serious injuries to road casualties.
“Education is as important as enforcement and any further reduction in the current budget would mean a severe impact on delivery of schemes which are targeting key priority groups, regarded as the most vulnerable.”
Neil Hopkins, communications manager at the partnership, told the Argus: “Working within these financial constraints will be extremely challenging for this year and beyond.”
UPDATE: We contacted the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership and spokesman Neil Hopkins assured us that while some Bikeability top-up funding provided by the Partnership will be subject to a cut, that cash would only have been used to provide "logistical support" to the cycle-training programme. He said there would be no impact on the number of children undertaking Bikeability training as a result of what was a "small cut" to that element of the overall budget.