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Cuts to council rights of way budgets – The Ramblers Report

November 5, 2012

Cuts to council rights of way budgets are cause for concern

We investigated cuts to rights of way budgets and staffing levels across local authorities in England and unearthed some alarming truths about the state of footpath funding and management.

Using Freedom of Information requests to research the exact scale of the cuts, we discovered over two thirds of councils have reduced their budgets in the last three years with a large proportion slashing budgets by more than 20%.

Our detailed report exposes 11 “Councils of Concern” where cuts to funding and staff resources between 2009 and 2012 have been the most severe overall as well as the top 10 offenders split by amount and percentage cut to both budgets and staff levels individually.

As well as showing a worrying disregard for the footpath network, the cuts are having real impact on the ground with paths becoming overgrown and falling into disrepair and a rising risk of walkers and landowners being forced to turn to costly legal action to solve issues.

The number of outstanding path problems in Lancashire has doubled in the last two years as seven members of rights of way staff have been lost and budgets reduced by more than a quarter of a million pounds within Lancashire County Council.

Less money to help facilitate path clearance and less staff to coordinate teams and liaise with landowners is making it difficult for Ramblers volunteers, who strive to keep footpaths clear and accessible across the country, to carry out their work.

The impact on walkers will also be felt as rights of way budgets and staffing declines, with obstacles and barriers forcing them to resort to unsafe roads or – perhaps most concerning of all – discouraged from walking in their local area altogether with path problems acting as such a deterrent.

“Keeping paths clear is a small cost compared to the huge benefits they can bring to tourism, the economy and the nation’s health and happiness and it is vital that councils properly invest in them” says Ramblers Director of Campaigns and Policy Nicky Philpott.

“In the current economic climate, we didn’t expect funding for rights of way to be untouched. But these statistics show the disproportionate effect of council cuts on rights of way and the teams which look after them. These cuts are worryingly short-sighted.”

To find out more visit the Ramblers website. The links to the Ramblers from this page don’t seem to work. You can access the full document from The Ramblers website.

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