Council criticised for spending £70k on removing obsolete road signs
CASH-STRAPPED Derbyshire County Council has come under-fire for spending tens of thousands of pounds on removing hundreds of road signs.
The Tory-led authority plans to spend £70,000 on taking down surplus signs in 2013-14 – with vast amounts having already been spent removing signs in areas including Ashbourne town centre and Hartington.
The council's Labour opposition said it could not understand the large sums of money being spent and argued there were more pressing priorities, such as repairing potholes.
But Councillor Simon Spencer, cabinet member for highways and transport, insisted the work would lead to "less confusion" on the county's roads and lead to long-term savings. He said: "Many signs are lit, costing money. They have to be tested and maintained which all contributes to their cost.
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"Signs which clutter the road have been causing problems for road users, as it can be quite challenging to take in all the information, so these need removing. And some signs are out of date."
A cabinet report reveals the council is planning to spend £40,000 on removing signs in the Derbyshire Dales – including on the A6 between Matlock and Cromford – £10,000 in Hatton and Hilton and £20,000 along the A61 near Alfreton.
Labour opposition leader Anne Western said: "How this all adds up to £70,000, I don't know.
"A similar exercise has been taking place in a North Derbyshire village I represent and the cost was relatively small. To say it is going to cost that amount of money and then say it will make savings seems spurious to me. Some signs are illuminated but most are not."
Mike Ashworth, the council's deputy director of environmental services, said: "When you remove hundreds of signs, £70,000 doesn't, in fact, go that far.
"If you want to remove a sign on a priority road, you have to spend money on traffic management. You then have to pay the utility company to disconnect the power supply.
"And new signs are not cheap as they are made from aluminum."
UNNECESSARY MARKERS 'UGLY'
THE removal of road signs became a national political topic recently – when Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin called unnecessary ones "ugly" and "potentially dangerous" blots on the landscape.
Mr McLoughlin, also MP for Derbyshire Dales, told a conference in London: "Near me, in Derbyshire, there's an ugly big sign by a beautiful medieval church that just says: 'No Footpath'.
"It's on a small country lane. Of course there isn't a path. We don't need a huge sign to tell us that. So I'm determined to do more to sort this out.
"Ugly and unnecessary signs clutter up the network. New signs seem to sprout like weeds, without any apparent consideration of what's already there. Often what we're left with is not just a blot on the landscape. It's confusing and potentially dangerous too."
Ridiculous examples spotted in England include signs declaring Sign Not In Use and Lane Closed To Ease Congestion.
AA spokesman Paul Watters backed authorities which remove unnecessary signs. He said: "This is long overdue. There's far too much clutter and it needs tackling."