Coventry & Warwickshire

Warwickshire and Coventry road repair funds 'protected'

Protesters in Warwickshire
Image caption Protesters in Warwickshire said the county council was going too far saving £33m in one financial year

Evening bus services could cease in Warwickshire to help protect the county council's road maintenance budget, a councillor has said.

Alan Cockburn, the cabinet member responsible for roads, said the council was withdrawing its night service subsidies due to government cuts.

Without subsidies, bus operators could find the routes too expensive, he said.

Road safety schemes would be cut by 75% too to pay for road repair budgets, which face a reduction of £3.3m.

"You don't come into politics to reduce services but these cuts do have to be made," Mr Cockburn, the environment and economy cabinet member said.

The council has budgeted £26.3m for road repairs in 2011-12 of which £9.75m has been reserved for pot hole repairs. The year before it budgeted £29.6m and spent £13.1m fixing pot holes.

Its government grant to subsidise local bus routes has been cut from £3m to £1.35m, to which it has added £35,000 of its own funds to ensure rural areas have at least one subsidised bus service per week.

"We've also had to stop a lot of road safety schemes, which are very dear to our hearts. Safety schemes have been reduced to 25% of what they were as road maintenance really is our top priority, along with looking after elderly people and looked after children," Mr Cockburn said.

Warwickshire County Council's road safety officer Stephen Rumble said the number of people killed or seriously wounded in road incidents had roughly halved in the county in the past 10 years down from more than 600 in 2000 to 331 in 2010.

He put that down to a combination of factors, such as improved vehicle safety, the introduction in 2003 of Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance Service and the effect of various road safety schemes.

Coventry City Council said it was also protecting its road maintenance budget next year. It spent £5.5m on pothole repairs in 2010-11 out of a total highways maintenance budget of £9.48m and said it planned to budget about the same this year.

Labour city service cabinet member councillor Lindsley Harvard said: "It was a major election issue for us.

'Not closing schools'

"When the Labour party regained control of the council in May we were told that the roads were in such a poor state of repair that if we didn't do something soon, main roads in the city would have to be closed to traffic on safety grounds."

Deputy council leader George Duggin said despite a £39m cut in government funding it would not have to cut any council services to fund the repairs.

"We're not closing schools, or libraries or swimming pools, you won't see us moving to a fortnightly bin collection."

He said £14m of cuts would come from efficiency savings such as moving IT services in-house as well as reducing the wage bill by losing up to 500 staff through voluntary redundancies.

The coalition government said on 23 February councils could bid for a share of £100m if they felt they had been badly hit by pot holes due to the severe winter, which Coventry said it would apply for.

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