Austin Macauley 13 October 2014

Devon looks to volunteers to fill potholes

Devon County Council is hoping to use teams of volunteers to fix potholes and trim hedges in a bid to reduce its highways spending.

The controversial proposal is among a raft of measures designed to save £3.4m by next year.

The road warden initiative would be similar to the council’s existing snow warden scheme whereby volunteers are trained to carry out a range of tasks to help keep roads and paths clear.

Road wardens would be expected to fix small potholes and carry out other minor repairs along with other duties such as weeding and cleaning road signs.

The county council has launched a nine-week consultation on the plans, which include saving £700,000 by limiting its grass cutting to junctions and the inside of bends.

It is also proposing to reduce the neighbourhood highway team by a fifth and save more than £150,000 by cutting back on gritting and salting roads during the winter.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for highway management and flood prevention, said: ‘The county council’s reduced budgets means that every service area of the council is affected, including highways. The Government is reducing revenue funding year on year, and we’re facing massive pressure on our budgets. ‘By 2016/17 we will have 60% less funding for highway maintenance and traffic management than in 2009/10, which presents a big challenge for the service and will mean a huge change from what has previously been delivered.

‘There are some very difficult decisions that need to be made and we’re looking at a number of options, but we want to receive feedback from people and we’re keen to hear their ideas. This is an opportunity for the public to give us their view on the proposals, how they feel this will impact on them, and what alternatives they would suggest.’

The county council is liaising with town and parish councils over its plans to introduce road wardens. But one opponent to described the proposal as ‘absurd’.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: 'Getting potholes fixed is without doubt a top priority, but getting people to do it themselves is perhaps just a bit too enterprising. Councils have been given extra money by the Government to repair our roads so we would hope they would able to get fully trained workers to do a professional job rather than training volunteers.

'We encourage everyone to report any potholes they are aware of via the free RAC Report Pothole app. Each report made goes direct to the relevant highways authority for them to fix.'

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