About 600 people are killed or seriously injured on the roads of South Yorkshire every year. Although of course the toll is still unacceptably high, the numbers have been falling. The South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership has linked with the Police, Highways Agency and Local Authorities, with the main aim to reduce casualties and improve road safety by working together, sharing expertise and taking effective action.
For the next 3 years the Partnership will spend £1 million per year covering more than a million people living in South Yorkshire. Money will be spent on a `Worst First’ basis where areas of proven need get priority. Unfortunately Sheffield City Council is taking a different approach.
The Liberal Democrat administration here have withdrawn over £600,000 of funding for child safety and pedestrian schemes from the Local Transport budget. This money was previously allocated using accident statistics so that the areas with the highest accident toll received priority. But the Lib Dems have now decided to redistribute these funds equally across the Community Assembly areas.
Equally does not necessarily mean fairly or effectively, because different areas of the city do not suffer the same level of accidents as each other. For example, over the last 5 years Dore and Totley ward has had a total of 4 KSIs (pedestrian killings and serious injuries) compared to Broomhill where 21 KSIs have occurred. In fact 3 of the 4 council wards in the Central Community Assembly are in the 5 worst affected areas of the city, but the Central Assembly will receive the same devolved transport funding as all the others.
Although the Green Party supports the idea of devolution of government to the lowest appropriate level, common sense says there are fewer traffic problems in less densely-populated areas and the statistics show this. We believe this change by the Council will put lives at risk.
The Council should spend every pound as effectively as possible. At this year’s Council Budget-setting meeting Sheffield’s Green Party Councillors took the unusual step of opposing the funding allocations for the Local Transport Plan. This was not because we opposed the important funding for Highways maintenance or the bids to the Transport Authority for strategic funding, but to underline our concerns about the Liberal Democrat administration’s reallocation of Road Safety funds.
Robert Gifford, Chief Executive of the cross-party Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety said last month “we will need to focus far more on effective delivery of road safety, making better use of the data and resources we have at our disposal.” He added “Society has a moral duty to act to prevent the occurrence of crashes when the cause is known and there are cost-effective methods of preventing them.” It is worrying that Sheffield Council’s policies do not support these aims.
Accident statistics are an important tool for guiding where road safety action is most needed; but behind every statistic are wrecked and ruined lives. On the streets of Sheffield the Liberal Democrats are putting political ideology ahead of people’s safety, and that is simply wrong.