Figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats show that North Yorkshire County Council has made severe cutbacks in maintaining the county’s public footpaths.
The Conservative-run council spent only £280k on maintaining the network last year, compared with £505k in 2005/6. The Council now employs 22 full-time equivalent staff on public rights-of-way, compared with 28 in 2005/6.
Even more worryingly, performance indicators show that only 65% of footpaths are now considered easy to use by walkers, compared with 75% last year.
The Ramblers’ Association has also expressed concern at the reduction in resources for footpath work.
Lib Dem Councillor Keith Barnes (Harrogate Oatlands) commented:
"In recent years the County Council has significantly improved the footpath network, responding positively to information from walkers. But the Council appears to be letting things slip now. There is still a lot to do. Many rights-of-way require maintenance as well as work on the large number of path diversions and creation orders awaiting resolution."
Cllr Barnes raised the issue at this week’s meeting of the Council, at which the Conservative portfolio holder conceded that the fall in performance was disappointing.
Cllr Barnes added:
“Walking is a big part of our county’s leisure and tourism industry, bringing a great deal of money into the local economy. It is false economics to let the footpath network deteriorate, especially when the Council clearly has the money.”