Consultation 2014 (closed)

Consultation was carried out between 3 October and 5 December 2014 on the range of proposed cuts to the Highways budget for 2015 / 2016. The options under consideration were as follows –

1. Reduction of gritting and snow-clearing fleet
2. Change of criteria for gritting and snow-clearing routes
3. Stop maintaining grit bins
4. Closure of picnic sites
5. Stopping grass cutting (except for visibility areas)
6. Stopping weed treatment
7. Remodelling of the parish lengthsmen service
8. Reduction in Neighbourhood Highway Team staffing

The introduction to the consultation explained that we would continue to reduce costs of management and support services, as well as raise fees and charges to reduce the impact on services.

The consultation consisted of an online survey that was promoted on our website, social media channels, and a press release.

In total we received nearly 3,340 survey responses and comments. We also received a petition objecting to the overall package of cuts.

Approximately two thirds of all responses were received from men. Just over half the responses were from the age group 45 to 64, and a third from those aged over 65. Less than 1% of the responses were from those aged less than 25. Around 14% of respondents said they had a disability. Responses were received from all eight of the Devon district areas.

The responses have been considered as follows:

1. Gritting and snow-clearing fleet

We proposed reducing the number of vehicles in the second snow-clearing fleet to make savings. However, this would mean we would be less able to respond to issues off the main network during periods of severe winter weather.

We received 400 responses, of which 49% wanted us to consider alternative cost saving, and 37% to reduce the service as proposed. Of those proposing alternative costs savings the majority were measures we already have in place or were not practical.

Just under half wished us to consider alternatives. In considering the alternatives suggested, savings required, and overall response rate, there is nothing to suggest a viable change to the proposal.

2. Gritting and snow-clearing routes

When temperatures are forecast to be close to or below freezing we routinely treat certain routes with salt. This is determined by criteria such as community population and traffic flows.

To achieve identified savings we proposed reviewing the criteria. However, it would mean that we wouldn’t be able to treat access routes to smaller communities and less well used routes with salt.

We received 495 responses of which 58% wished us to consider alternative cost savings, and 30% to reduce the service as proposed. There appeared to be a general understanding that changing the criteria would reduce gritting on some access routes to communities. Concerns over access for vulnerable people and road safety issues were raised.

Almost three-fifths of respondents wished for alternatives and, through the consultation, consideration should be given to the concerns around the mitigations for vulnerable people and road safety.

3. Grit bins

Our grit bins are currently restocked with salt each year during the autumn. They are refilled during the winter when reported as necessary and resources permit.

To achieve identified savings we proposed to stop maintaining or restocking git bins. The grit bins would not be removed, so community groups could take over the restocking of the bins, by purchasing salt sold through a contract procured by the County Council.

We received 495 responses of which 55% wished us to consider alternative cost savings, and 30% to reduce the service as proposed. Following consultation, slightly more than half of respondents wished us to seek alternatives. In suggesting alternatives, it was clear there was strength of feeling that this measure was saving a relatively small amount, and that this was a key mitigation for other reductions in winter service.

4. Picnic sites

We proposed closing the four picnic sites on the A361/A39 and putting the land up for sale.

We received 497 responses of which 22% wished us to consider alternative cost savings, and 58% to reduce the service as proposed. Additionally we received two petitions, one of which was for saving the ‘Log Cabin’ (café), and one more generally about the picnic sites.

Respondents were concerned about loss of business, facilities, and rest stops. It was felt that these facilities may be provided in nearby towns along the route.

In considering the alternatives suggested, savings required, and overall response rate, there is nothing to suggest a need to change the proposal.

5. Grass cutting

We proposed only funding grass cutting to maintain visibility at junctions and on the inside of bends in towns, villages and rural areas.

We received 497 responses of which 39% wished us to consider alternative cost savings, and 48% to reduce the service as proposed.

Respondents raised issues around safety and visual impact. For safety we are already cutting, and will continue to do so for visibility purposes.

In considering the alternatives suggested, savings required, and overall response rate, there is nothing to suggest a need to change the proposal.

6. Weed treatment

We proposed to stop targeted weed spraying and treatment of noxious weeds, but would maintain a small budget to enable use of Community Payback volunteers.

We received 496 responses of which 32% wished us to consider alternative cost savings, and 51% to reduce the service as proposed.

Issues raised were around noxious weeds and visual impact. We are retaining a small budget so we can use Community Payback volunteers to hand pull weeds which are causing safety issues or structural damage to highways.

In considering the alternatives suggested, savings required, and overall response rate, there is nothing to suggest a need to change the proposal.

7. Parish Lengthsmen service

We proposed reducing the number of Lengthsmen and making the cleaning of drainage features such as grips and easements, and hand cleaning of gullies their only duty. This would leave no time for locally determined highway drainage and cleaning activities.

We received 497 responses of which 55% wished us to consider alternative cost savings, and 27% to reduce the service as proposed.

Respondents were concerned about increased levels of flooding and safety concerns. Key drainage will continue to be maintained by the Lengthsmen, while the Road Warden Scheme will enable communities to pick up on local issues important to their area.

Just over half wished us to consider alternatives. In considering the alternatives suggested, savings required, and overall response rate, there is nothing to suggest a viable change to the proposal, considering mitigations already in place.

8. Neighbourhood Highway Team staffing

We proposed reducing frontline staff by about 20%.  This would mean less frequent or responsive liaison, and not being able to investigate lower priority enquiries.

We received 496 responses of which 31% wished us to consider alternative cost savings, and 42% to reduce the service as proposed.

Issues raised were in line with proposals for restructure already suggested, such as increased response times and online reporting.

In considering the alternatives suggested, savings required, and overall response rate, there is nothing to suggest a need to change the proposal.

Key issues raised for each proposal:

What happens next?
Proposals 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 were approved by Full Council on Thursday 19 February and will come into force from 1 April 2015. Please note, proposal 4 (Picnic sites) will not come into force until later as more time is required to negotiate or terminate leases.

After further consideration –

  • Proposal 2 will receive one-off funding for one year. The criteria for gritting and snow-clearing routes will be reviewed for 2016 / 2017.
  • Proposal 3 will not be progressed and grit bins will continue to be maintained or restocked.