In their latest efforts to ‘balance the books,’ a spokesperson for Southend Council has announced that 25% of the borough’s road signs will need to be removed completely by the end of 2016 to provide approximately £2m of savings annually. These figures are nothing to do with the costs of installing a sign – they relate to the increasing costs of keeping them clean, well-maintained and secure.
In a statement, a council spokesperson spoked: ‘Every year, it costs around £10,000 per sign once you take cleaning and maintenance into account, and many of our streets even have the same sign at either end of the road – this in itself is a ridiculous extravagance when you consider that we are currently in a period of austerity. We are aware that some signs in the borough are looked at more than others, and so we have come to the difficult decision that a quarter of all road signs in the town will have to be removed by the end of 2016. It seems that this would be the easiest way of trimming the annual budget by £2m, and so we intend to proceed with the statutory consultation period at once.’
He added: ‘We have to remember that everyone has a smartphone these days, and this means that hardly anybody is bothering to even look at road signs. A couple of taps on an app and you already know exactly where you are without having to look up at a redundant piece of metal. If you spend a little bit of time on Street View on Google Maps, you will soon see that they have already labelled every road on the ground, so why should we as a council have to pay to maintain the original road signs as well? This is another example of how the private sector can reduce the financial burden on the public sector, and we have to embrace this.’
We asked the spokesperson about how the council will be identifying the signs that can be removed. He said: ‘The decision-making process will be incredibly straightforward. We are currently in the process of recruiting 150 RSUAs (Road Sign Usage Analysts) – we are proud to be creating so many jobs in one go for the people of our town. From April 2016, they will roam around the borough and spend 8-hour shifts by a particular road sign – their role will be to record every glance at that sign from passing pedestrians and motorists. Once we have all of the data in place, we will then be able to start removing the least-used road signs in Southend.’
However, the news hasn’t gone down too well with the people of Shoeburyness. Thomas Aylesbeare has been living in Aylesbeare for five years, and he said: ‘Our street names are designed to give the impression that we are simply better than anyone else in the borough – Aylesbeare, Appledore, Bishopsteignton, Wigglesedge, Flounderboom, Bongomoor, Withypool, Challacombe ….. just seeing one of these signs gives the riff-raff the impression that they need to bugger off somewhere else. I’ll chain myself to ‘Aylesbeare’ if I have to!’
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