Argyll parents beg council to save road safety unit

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Parents have appealed to Argyll and Bute Council not to scrap the Road Safety Unit as part of its proposed budget savings.

Over the next three years, Argyll and Bute Council needs to find savings expected to be between £11.1 million and £33.9 million, and have included a proposal to ‘reduce road safety materials budget and remove the Road Safety Unit’.

But the suggestions has met with strong opposition from Lochgilphead High School Parent Council, which wrote to all councillors arguing: ‘The Road Safety Unit provides a vital service to the 12,000 primary and secondary pupils spread right across the council area. It also works with our early years bases.

‘[It] challenges all pupils to take responsibility not just for their own safety but for the safety of others in the roads environment. These are not just the young pedestrians, cyclists and passengers of today. They are Argyll and Bute’s drivers of tomorrow.

‘Argyll and Bute Council’s Road Safety Unit is at the forefront of road safety education in Scotland. We are shocked its existence is now hanging in the balance.

‘The 1988 Road Traffic Act stipulates that it is the responsibility of the local authority to “prepare and carry out a programme of measures designed to promote road safety”.

‘Removing the Road Safety Unit would render Argyll and Bute Council incapable of fulfilling these responsibilities. The apparent attempt at justifying the saving by stating “road safety information available through other organisations” is, at best, misleading.  There is no other organisation which can teach road safety to young people across Argyll and Bute.

‘Road safety is an issue which affects everyone, regardless of age. As well as being traumatic and often tragic, accidents are very expensive. Transport Scotland’s ‘Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2016’ report put the average cost of a fatality at £2,161,725 and of a serious injury at £245,144.

‘At your budget meeting, you will be asked to agree to remove Argyll and Bute’s innovative and proactive Road Safety Unit for a saving of just £84,000 – a fraction of the cost of dealing with even one serious road accident.

‘The work this unit does is vital to the current and future safety of Argyll and Bute’s population.  We urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject this proposal.’

Bill Dundas, chairman of Lochnell Primary School Parent Council, added: ‘Road safety is a big issue for the school which sits on the A828 trunk road. Most of the pupils live in villages close by the A828 or the A85 and learning road safety is a critical life skill.

‘The Road Safety Unit provides a lot of regular support to the school through initiatives like icycle. The unit has also helped raise awareness of the dangers of the main road crossing and supported the school in developing strategies to minimise risk.

‘Lochnell Parent Council would not want to see this level of support removed or reduced.’

Councillor Roddy McCuish, policy lead for Roads and Amenity Services, said: ‘Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the fact that these are really tough times for councils.

‘Funding cuts demand difficult decisions. Next year alone our budget gap is estimated to be as much as £8.5 million. We don’t know yet what exactly we’re dealing with. The Scottish Government is expected to announce funding later this month. We’re using this time to ask local people for their views on changing the work of the council.

‘Thank you to the Parent Council for taking the time to give us this feedback. I’d encourage everyone to get involved by answering the consultation: www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/planningourfuture2017.

‘In a perfect world we would love to be in position we make no cuts at all. We can only spend what we have. Ideally, I would like to have more than a one-year settlement as this would allow us to plan for the future and not put our staff and constituents through this turmoil every year.’

The consultation ends on January 2.

Letters – page 10.