Anger as North Yorkshire road safety team cut to one
North Yorkshire County Council is under fire for reducing the number of staff working to prevent deaths on the county's roads to one as part of a cost-cutting strategy.
North Yorkshire County Council has been criticised by the county's police and crime commissioner for what she said was a "hugely disappointing" decision to cut its road safety team from six full-time equivalents to one.
The restructure to take effect from April will also mean a number of road safety education, training and publicity schemes will be axed to save money.
The Tory-run authority, which wants to increase its share of council tax by four per cent this year, said that after a 40 per cent cut in its spending power due to Government austerity cuts "it is impossible to provide some of the programmes that we previously did".
The number of deaths on North Yorkshire's roads rose last year, and there were six in January 2020 including three on the same weekend.
The county council says this is part of a long-term downward trend.
Senior officials at other local services are upset by the lack of consultation by the county council over the move, with many of the road safety projects carried out as a partnership.
There are also concerns about how the authority can meet its statutory duties, described on its website as "a legal duty to promote road safety, and use statistics about road collisions in North Yorkshire to help us reduce the number of collisions".
Conservative Julia Mulligan, the county's police, fire and crime commissioner, said: "I think it is hugely disappointing that North Yorkshire County Council has decided to all but remove its resources around road safety.
"Road deaths are one of the most significant challenges that North Yorkshire faces and we should be putting more resources in that rather than fewer.
"It is also disappointing that the county council didn't engage with partners about the risks and consequences around this decision and left us pretty much high and dry having to deal with the fall-out."
But the county council hit back saying it was facing "tough decisions" on spending thanks to continuing budget cuts by the Government.
David Bowe, the council's director for Business and Environmental Services said: “We take our responsibilities around road safety extremely seriously but like all councils we are facing really tough decisions.
"In this instance, with 40 per cent less spending power it is impossible to provide some of the programmes that we previously did – particularly those which are discretionary and which go beyond our statutory duty."
Last week, the county council’s cabinet pushed forward proposals to increase its council tax demand by two per cent and a further two per cent to cover the spiralling cost of adult social care.
Deputy leader Gareth Dadd said: "We are now at a tipping point of acceptability over council tax.”
Among the schemes that are expected to be cut include Drive Alive, an educational event in which the students experience the aftermath of a collision, and Actions Have Consequences aimed at members 'vulnerable road user' groups.
Refresher classes for older drivers to allow them to keep driving safely will also likely be axed, along with a scheme to tackle irresponsible parking near school gates and entrances.
Cycling training for children through the Bikeability scheme will be still be offered and the county council says it remains committed to the 95 Alive road safety partnership.
Mr Bowe said: “We also continue to support communities to improve road safety. For example, we support parish councils to purchase their own vehicle activated signs to help to reduce speeding and our county councillors have dedicated tens of thousands of pounds from their own locality budgets to support the purchase of these signs."
North Yorkshire Police figures reveal that there were 40 incidents where people died on North Yorkshire's roads in 2019, an increase of ten on the previous year.
The number of people suffering life-changing injuries and less serious injuries also rose.
Mr Bowe said: “Road casualty figures can vary notably from year to year and we monitor trends over a three-year period and on that basis the long-term trend for the number of people killed and injured on our roads has been downward.
"That’s not to say we are complacent. We will continue to work with partners and communities to address road safety."
A spokesman for Yorkshire-based road safety charity Brake said: “Any cuts to road safety resources are a cause for concern.
"Road safety teams play a vital role in helping make our roads safer, they’re also a cost effective investment for local authorities.
"Investment in road safety helps to prevent crashes and casualties, which devastate families and place a costly burden on health and emergency services.
"We need more money spent on road safety, not less, to ensure people can walk, cycle and live active lifestyles without being endangered.”