Budget cuts by South Ayrshire Council - at the cost of public safety?
South Ayrshire Council like many other local authorities are finding themselves in the impossible position of creating a budget which works in line with drastic budget cuts imposed by Governments North and South of the Border.
South Ayrshire Council are expecting an unprecedented funding gap of 17 million pounds for the tax year 2018/2019 with further savings needed in 2019/2020.
However, what impact will that have on public safety?
To tackle the deficit South Ayrshire Council have released proposed cuts to public services and have organised a public consultation on them which is open until 11th February 2018. While the cuts cover a broad range of services, there are two cuts which could have a significant impact on public safety.
The first cut that can impact on public safety is the removal of all school crossing patrols, aimed at saving £128,383 in 2018/2019.
It will come as no surprise that the courts recognise that school aged children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to road traffic accidents. School aged children, particularly those at primary school, simply do not have the requisite experience and knowledge to adequately assess the risks posed to them when crossing a road. They are far more likely, than their adult counterparts, to run onto the road without looking.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) recently reported that of the 15,976 children hurt on Britain’s roads in 2016, nearly a quarter (22 per cent) were hurt during the hours of 3-5pm, with 14 per cent of children being injured during the morning school run, between the hours of 7-9am.
ROSPA also report that the number of people killed and seriously injured on the country’s roads spikes immediately after the autumn clock change, due to the suddenly-darker evenings. It is clear that School Crossing Patrols play an essential role in tackling such incidents and reducing road traffic accidents, which are often serious, to our children.
The second cut which impacts on public safety is the reduced funding for road and pavement surfacing including a revised inspection regime. South Ayrshire Council hope to secure a saving of £106,500 in 2017/2018 and £165,000 the following year.
The proposed changes would undoubtedly mean fewer repairs and increased deterioration of already crumbling roads and pavements. The inspection regime is the process where council employees inspect our roads and pavements to identify faulty and dangerous stretches of road and pavement to allow them to be repaired before accidents occur.
To save costs in this regard, it would almost certainly result in a reduction of inspection frequency which will mean that significant and dangerous defects are likely to go un-noticed for longer periods of time.
So what does this mean for the South Ayrshire public?
In short, it means that there could be an increase in the number of pavement tripping accidents and road traffic accidents caused by potholes and dangerous roads and pavements. Accidents which could otherwise have been prevented.
It is no easy task managing a significantly reduced budget but it is essential that this is done in a responsible manner.
The proposed changes identified above would undoubtedly save costs in the short term but at what cost?
It is likely that they will result in increased accidents and potentially an increased number of claims being brought against the local authority which could, in the longer term, end up wiping out any savings made due to compensation payments. Questions have to be asked as to whether the proposed cuts are likely to save costs or create them.