A cash-strapped council has been blasted over plans to call on volunteers to maintain local roads, paths and verges in a bid to save money.
Bosses at Suffolk County Council revealed they are considering setting up a community self-help scheme to encourage residents to carry out minor highway repairs.
The ‘DIY’ project would mean that employed council workers could use their time to focus on larger works and pothole repairs.
But critics argue volunteers are already taking on too much, and that people are not getting a good return on their tax contributions.
Richard Kemp, independent county councillor for Long Melford, Suffolk, said residents are becoming frustrated with the level of service that is currently being offered.
He said: “I think this impinges upon the faith of volunteers, who now help to run libraries and schools.
The police seem to be going over to a DIY system and so it goes on. There is a limit to what volunteers can take on.
“Besides that, most people pay council tax, a fee to the DVLA for having a motor car, petrol duty and the all the rest.
“Just what do we get for our money?
“If higher authorities wish to pass down further duties to parishes, then let’s have a proper structure with some funding being passed down to parishes and town councils.
“I am perfectly certain that with some funding from Suffolk County Council, parishes could, through approved contractors, make a better job of minor repairs to paths and roads.
“At present, the public are getting restless and frustrated at what is happening in local government.”
Earlier this year, Suffolk County Council announced plans to save around £24m and increase council tax by almost five per cent.
The £490m budget was backed by a full meeting of the Conservative-controlled council by 45 votes to 17.
Suffolk County Council said the new approach would allow members of the public to support local roads, paths, verges and rights of way.
It emphasised however that it would never ask volunteers to fill in potholes or work on or near a carriageway, for safety reasons.
John Nunn, parish and district councillor for Long Melford, added that the scheme presented a number of issues, such as whether volunteers will be covered by county council insurance and receive proper funding and safety training.
He said: “Many people will think this idea is one step too far for the public to volunteer for, whereas others may be willing to keep their village clean and tidy.
“I am sure opinions will be split.”
The council explained that a recent survey of 152 parish and town councils found that 53 per cent already undertook minor highways work, including cutting grass, spreading grit, clearing snow and cleaning road signs.
In the survey, 34 per cent of respondents said they would be interested in doing minor work, while 66 per cent said either they would not be interested, or they are not right now but may be in the future.
A Suffolk Highways spokesman said: “We are currently looking into potential ways that Suffolk’s town and parish councils could support us in delivering minor remedial works in their community.
“We understand from many councils that they are keen to do more.
“However, our priority concern is the safety of anyone who may be involved in this activity.”
In 2014, Suffolk Police were criticised for encouraging officers to use their own vehicles for police business as it worked out cheaper than renting vehicles or organising pool cars.
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