Time to stop treating drivers like ‘wallets on wheels’

West Midlands MEP Jill Seymour has called on councils to deliver a fairer deal for drivers after new research revealed many local authorities are treating motorists like ‘wallets on wheels’.

She was responding to a report from the AA which reveals that 60 per cent of councils across England have cut their highways spending – despite raking in much more revenue from parking charges.

“Week after week, we see fresh evidence of the way motorists are being demonised by the authorities,” she said.

“Drivers have become little more than cash cows for local councils, and the time has come to redress the balance.

“Motorists don’t resent paying their dues, if they can see the money being spent on improving the transport network. But in large parts of the country, that simply isn’t the case.

“While the Government presses stubbornly ahead with the £55 billion-plus HS2 project to benefit just a tiny minority, roads which are used by the vast majority don’t receive the same investment. It makes no logical sense.”

The AA’s research found that nearly two thirds of local authorities reduced spending on areas such as road maintenance, street lights and school crossing patrols in the last financial year.

Yet at the same time, more than 200 councils are seeking to once again raise fees for both on and off-street parking, to pile more money into their coffers. AA president Edmund King said that motorists were now viewed as merely ‘wallets on wheels’.

Mrs Seymour, who sits on the European Union’s transport committee, said: “We all know that council budgets are being squeezed, but it seems that highways departments are disproportionately hit.

“The AA’s research shows the extent of the problem, with more than half of English councils cutting spending on road improvements. And we’re not talking pennies, here – each council’s average reduction is close to £1 million.

“There has also been a worryingly sharp drop in the amount of money being spent on road safety education programmes and school crossing patrols.”