• Winter gritting service set to be cut as Devon’s highways budget is slashed again

    3rd October 2014 | News | Claire
  • https://www.devonnewscentre.info/public-consultation-on-proposed-highways-budget-reductions/

    A public consultation has been launched today (Friday 3 October) by Devon County Council on proposed savings to its highways and traffic management service budget.

    The County Council has already reduced its highways revenue budget by £18.5 million since 2010. However, it now needs to cut a further £3.4 million in 2015/16 as part of the £100 million savings required by 2017, due to the ongoing austerity measures imposed by the coalition Government.

    The nine-week consultation sets out a number of proposals to reduce costs, while still enabling the County Council to carry out essential safety related work on Devon’s 8,000 miles of roads, which is the biggest highway network of any local authority in the country.

    The County Council is keen to hear from local residents on the proposals, and whether they have any suggestions of alternative ideas to save money.

    The proposals include:

    – Reducing frontline staffing in the County Council’s Neighbourhood Highway Team by around 20% would save £260,000. There are currently seven Neighbourhood Highway Teams across Devon that liaise with town and parish councillors, community groups and local county councillors, and investigate enquiries from members of the public;

    -Parish Lengthsmen visit each parish four times a year to carry out cleaning and drainage maintenance. To save £430,000 the County Council is proposing to reduce the number of lengthsmen and to make cleaning and drainage maintenance their only duties. They will let Parish Councils know their programme of work and when they are visiting;

    -Savings of £50,000 are proposed for the gritting and snow clearing fleet. The County Council has two winter fleets of vehicles – one which responds to normal winter weather and another which is used to deal with prolonged heavy snowfall. It is proposed that the second fleet is reduced as is not used as often and has high maintenance costs;

    -Reviewing the criteria of salting routes is proposed to reduce the gritting and snow clearing budget by £103,000. This would mean that less well used routes and routes to smaller communities would no longer be treated when freezing temperatures are forecast;

    -By not restocking or maintaining grit bins, £80,000 could be saved. Community groups could take over the restocking of the bins, purchasing salt through a County Council procured contract;

    -Closing four County Council owned and maintained picnic sites on the A361 and A39 would save around £133,000;

    -A saving of £700,000 is being proposed by only funding grass cutting to maintain visibility at junctions and the inside of bends, rather than cutting verges in towns and villages four times a year and cutting a metre strip along verges in rural areas twice a year;

    -£250,000 is proposed to be saved by no longer funding weed spraying and treatment of noxious weeds. A small budget would be maintained to enable the use of Community Payback volunteers to carry out this work.

    Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management and Flood Prevention, said: “The County Council’s reduced budgets means that every service area of the Council is affected, including highways. The Government is reducing revenue funding year on year, and we’re facing massive pressure on our budgets. By 2016/17 we will have 60% less funding for highway maintenance and traffic management than in 2009/10, which presents a big challenge for the service and will mean a huge change from what has previously been delivered.

    “There are some very difficult decisions that need to be made and we’re looking at a number of options, but we want to receive feedback from people and we’re keen to hear their ideas. This is an opportunity for the public to give us their view on the proposals, how they feel this will impact on them, and what alternatives they would suggest.”

    As part of its drive to deliver a more efficient service, the County Council is launching an improved website for people to report problems on Devon’s roads, such as potholes, faulty streetlights or damaged signs. The new system is being designed to be user friendly, to inform people if a fault has already been reported and to enable people to track faults.

    The Council is also liaising with town and parish councils about rolling out a Road Warden scheme, similar to its existing Snow Warden initiative. The scheme will aim to encourage communities to work with the County Council to help carry out minor maintenance work. The volunteers, nominated by town and parish councils, would receive training from Devon County Council to enable them to carry out duties ranging from weed clearance and sign cleaning to grass and hedge cutting, and small pothole and surface defect repairs.

    The consultation on the proposed budget savings for the highways and traffic management service will close on Friday 5 December.

    Information on the consultation is available here.- https://new.devon.gov.uk/highwaysbudget/