Budget cuts 'putting lives at risk'
The Government's austerity measures are "putting lives at risk" on the roads, a parliamentary advisory group has said.
As many as 65% of English local authorities have seen reductions in the budget allocated to road safety engineering in the last 12 months, the survey by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) found.
And more than 62% have seen a reduction in staffing between 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Councils were asked if the factors of staff numbers, staff skills, finance or organisation had put their statutory duty to promote road safety at risk. A total of 50% of the local authorities answered "yes" to at least one of the factors.
This time last year, the Government published a strategic framework for road safety. When asked about the impact of this framework, 44% of local authorities thought it had had no effect on road safety, with 39% believing that the impact had been negative.
The Pacts survey was undertaken with the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transportation and with the Local Authorities Technical Advisers Group. It formed part of a Pacts report entitled Checking the Health of Road Safety.
Commenting on the report, Pacts executive director Robert Gifford said: "This report has a clear message to the Government: the focus on austerity is putting lives at risk. The years 2007-2010 saw substantial falls in road deaths.
"However, deaths rose in the first six months of 2011 and flatlined in the third quarter. This suggests that road deaths will rise in Britain in 2011 for the first time since 2003."
He added: "This rise is especially worrying as the country is still in recession. Historically, deaths rise as economic output increases, not as it falls. The Government should be deeply concerned by this change in course.
"Ministers should also be worried by the apparent lack of confidence in the much-vaunted framework document published last year. This has clearly failed to gain professional support."