According to the Safer Maidstone Partnership there were 709 reported road crashes in the borough for the year ending June 2015, almost 3% up on the previous year. It is recognised that the majority of these 'accidents' can be attributed to driver error; KCC's Road Safety Team continue to have a vital role.
Nonetheless, it should be recognised that factors such as the state of the road and signage can be critical in some instances. At a recent briefing for members the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport expressed concern that KCC's diminishing Highways maintenance budget could put road safety at risk. Will he please advise on what information he based this statement, including in his answer how close we are to reaching a safety critical situation and what steps he is taking to mitigate this risk?
In 2015, in response to a national rise in road casualties, the Highways Department undertook an investigation into the possible causes in Kent. A review of those crashes in Kent identified that 7.5% of all crashes had some highway-related contributory factor. This compares to 14% nationally and includes motorways and trunk roads. The review identified a number of actions for all parts of the highway service and this has been included as a business priority for Kent Highways.
The figures that Mr Bird refers to are from the Community Safety Partnership - but the official figures for Maidstone, and indeed the whole County, have yet to be verified with Kent Police and will be published next month on kent.gov.uk. Historically, Maidstone's figures are typically higher than average because it is one of the highest populated and most heavily trafficked districts in both the county and the Country.
I do not believe we have yet reached the point where we are only able to react to safety critical problems. The County Council has maintained the budgets available for road safety engineering, education and publicity in the face of sustained cuts from central government; and the Road Safety Team are recognised as national leaders in their field, regularly winning awards. However, budgets are challenging, and all Members will have to make difficult decisions in the coming years about where they prioritise funding to meet our statutory duties. New national guidance released later this year will promote a risk assessment approach, and the Government are offering larger incentives to encourage Local Highway Authorities to work towards a planned "asset managed" approach. This will change the way in which we maintain the Kent Road network in the future.