Transport Safety group: ‘Spending cuts putting lives at risk’
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) has published the third report in its series “Tackling the Deficit”, looking at the impact of the government’s austerity programme on road safety. This report, entitled “Checking the Health of Road Safety” and written by Naomi Baster (PACTS’ Policy and Research Officer), includes an analysis of policy proposals over the last year and the results of a survey undertaken jointly with the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transportation, and the Local Authorities Technical Advisors Group. The report’s publication marks the first anniversary of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety and of the government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety.
Key findings from the survey suggest that local authorities have seen successive years of budget reductions. Asked “Do any of the following factors put your statutory duty to promote road safety at risk?” 50% answered “Yes” to at least one of the following factors: staff numbers, staff skills, finance or organisation.
Compared to this time last year, 65% of local authorities have seen reductions in the budget allocated to road safety engineering with a reduction in output of 60%. Over 62% saw a reduction in staffing between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Over a third have seen these reductions continue in the current year.
When asked about the impact of the current Strategic Framework, 44% thought it had had no effect on road safety with 39% believing that the impact had been negative.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Robert Gifford, Executive Director of PACTS, said “This report has a clear message to government: the focus on austerity is putting lives at risk. The years 2007-2010 saw substantial falls in road deaths reflecting falls in both traffic and Gross Domestic Product. However, deaths rose in the first six months of 2011 and flat lined in the third quarter. This suggests, as the European Commission concluded earlier this year, that road deaths will rise in Great Britain in 2011 for the first time since 2003.
“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 documented published last year. This has clearly failed to gain professional support. PACTS believes that we need a new national debate about the future of road safety, based on the principles that road deaths are preventable and that, where measures are both cost-effective and achievable, society has a moral and economic responsibility to act for the public benefit.”