Motorists face ‘winter of woe’ after road budget cuts

Drivers face a “winter of woe” as English councils slash spending on gritting, according to new research.

The AA accused local authorities of betting on a mild winter after its analysis of 2018/19 budget submissions to the Government uncovered a £3.7 million cut in gritting services.

Expenditure on clearing overgrown hedges and trees from road signs is being reduced by £79 million and transport planning and policy development spending is declining by £15.6 million.

Parts of Britain saw widespread snow and ice in February and March as the country was hit by severe weather including the so-called Beast from the East.

AA president Edmund King said: “Reducing the winter provision budget is a risk. Should we have another winter like the last one then that shortfall in funds could lead to drivers being left stranded on snowy roads, or villages cut off from vital services.

“English councils are desperate for drivers’ money but return the favour by gambling with their safety.”

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Judith Blake, the Local Government Association’s transport spokeswoman, said: “Planning for winter remains a key priority for councils, despite ongoing funding pressures and competing demands on their limited resources.

“Last year councils had 1.5 million tonnes stockpiled with gritters deployed at a moment’s notice through the wintry months to make sure our local roads were clear and open to our residents where possible.”

AA analysis revealed that just 12% of councils are increasing their pothole funds.

This equates to a £128.7 million boost overall, which Mr King described as “nowhere near enough” to fix the pothole deficit estimated to stand at £8.7 billion.

He said: “Local councils say they simply don’t have the funds available to win the battle. Whitehall has to take ownership and provide more money to councils.”

Ms Blake responded by urging the Government to place local authority funding “on a sustainable footing in its forthcoming Spending Review”.

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