PRESS RELEASE

19th January 2005

Senior County Council Officers recommend budgetary cuts, which if implemented could have compromised Public Safety.

At a meeting of the Community Life Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee held on Tuesday 18th January 2005, members were presented with a report asking them to consider cuts in services to keep any council tax rise in line with Government recommendations.

Apparently it does not seem to have been necessary for the authors of the report to seek legal advice from the County Solicitor, which is surprising since some of the suggested cuts could have compromised public safety.

Since the County Council has a legal duty to ensure that within reason the highway remains safe, cuts of this nature could significantly put members of the public at risk. (Some examples can be found in the table below).

As a result, in the event of a fatality, which could be attributed to the economy measures, someone could find himself on a corporate manslaughter charge.

Fortunately, some members of the committee realised the serious implications of the proposals which officers had failed to point out. After some debate, it was decided by the narrowest of margins (a surprising situation for a scrutiny committee which is supposed to be subjecting proposals to robust scrutiny) to recommend to the Executive that the committee accepts the cuts, providing that they do not compromise public safety.

These examples are taken from the pages 40 and 41 of the Agenda to the Community Life Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 18th January 2005.

Saving: Reduce revenue funded capitalised safety schemes and surfacing schemes.
Consequences: A reduction in safety schemes that will not help with casualty reductions.
Cost saving: 200,000.

Saving: Road safety education - reduce promotional activities and increase income where possible.
Consequences: This will reduce road safety and increase accidents involving children.
Cost saving: 20,000.

Saving: School Crossing Patrols - reduce by 10 sites.
Consequences: This will reduce road safety and increase accidents involving children.
Cost saving: 23,000.

Saving: Reduce Street Lighting Replacements - do not replace street lights that have reached the end of their economic life - net cost after allowing for increase in maintenance and energy costs.
Consequences: This will increase the risk that CC street lights will collapse and lead to accidents and insurance claims - maintenance and energy costs will increase due to ongoing operation of ageing stock.
Cost Saving: 200,000.

Saving: Reduce Drainage works and improvements.
Consequences: Reduced scope to improve drainage infrastructure and remove standing water from the highway, which will have implications for flooding and road safety - this may lead to insurance claims.
Cost Saving: 102,000.

The proposed saving from road safety education and school crossing patrols, which should be paramount for the safety of our children, amounts to considerably less than the 74,000 which the Packet has revealed is expended on bottled water, which apparently is so essential for the "well being" of the officer establishment!!!!!

It must raise concerns as to whether we really have our priorities right.

For more information please contact Councillor Graeme Hicks

Telephone 01209 217605 or mobile 07748383982

E-mail address graeme@hicks15.freeserve.co.uk

Web Site www.cllrghicks.net.