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UK ROAD SAFETY BUDGET CUTS RISKING LIVES?

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LONDON, U.K. - Spending cuts are putting lives at risk on Britain's roads, a parliamentary advisory group has warned, as the annual death toll looks set to increase for the first time in years,
A report by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety (Pacts) found 65% of local authorities have cut road safety budgets in the past year, with one in two believing they no longer have sufficient resources to adequately promote road safety.
Robert Gifford, the executive director of Pacts, said: "This report has a clear message to government: the focus on austerity is putting lives at risk."
  • Road deaths had been falling steadily until last year. In 2010, 850 people died on the roads, the lowest figure since national records began in 1926.
  • But the latest statistics and European Commission findings suggest that, when final figures are counted, 2011 would go down as the first year since 2003 when the number road deaths increased.
  • Gifford said that was particularly concerning given the economic context: "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."
  • The research found bad news for the government about the reception given to its road safety policy, outlined in a strategic framework document published this time a year ago. Only one in six local authorities believe the impact of the new ideas was positive, with 39% saying they had made things worse.
  • Gifford said: "Ministers should be worried by the apparent lack of confidence in the much-vaunted framework document published last year. This has clearly failed to gain professional support."
  • He called for a renewed debate on road safety: "Where measures are cost-effective and achievable, society has a moral and economic responsibility to act for the public benefit."
Mike Penning (left photo), the road safety minister, said: "I am not complacent about road safety even though Britain has some of the safest roads in the world. Road safety is a top priority and we are determined to dramatically reduce deaths and injuries still further.
"We do not believe that further persuasion is needed on the importance of road safety through 'Whitehall knows best' national targets or central diktats.
We removed ring-fencing from local authority grants so councils would have increased flexibility to respond to, and act on, local concerns, and we would expect that road safety would remain a priority for local communities and for local spending to reflect this."
He said.
Source: The Guardian
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