England may be a green and pleasant land, but getting around it on foot is proving harder than ever as council cuts leave footpaths blocked, run-down and overgrown, according to a report.
A report by The Ramblers, no less (it seems they’ve dropped the ‘Association’ from their title as part of a rebranding exercise).
The organisation used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that more than 30 per cent of English councils have cut their paths budget this year, some following from three previous years of swingeing cuts.
The 10 worst offenders have cut their rights of way budget by £10.7m since 2009.
Well, what should they cut instead?
Benedict Southworth, chief executive of The Ramblers, said: “We are genuinely surprised at the scale of the problem and how quickly the cuts have started to have an impact, not only on our rural pathways but on the shortcuts, paths and tracks that crisscross our cities.
“There is a perception that walking is a pastime of the middle classes so footpaths have become an ‘easy cut’ for councils, but walking is one of the building blocks of life for people to renew their batteries, keep healthy and not feel isolated in their own communities,” he added.
That won’t go down to well with the disability lobby, will it? But they do have a suggestion to east the problem:
There are more than 140,000 miles of footpaths and rights of way in England and The Ramblers is calling on local councils to work with the charity’s grassroots network of more than 25,000 people to help restore the network.
Well, great! This is Dave’s ‘Big Society’ in action, isn’t it?
Mr Southworth said: “We have volunteers across the country that regularly go out to clear paths, fix stiles and build bridges but without council staff to work with our volunteers and liaise with landowners, it is becoming harder for our volunteers to help.”
Maybe you should just go ahead without the council staff? Liaise with the landowners yourself? What could go wrong?
Other than the sudden realisation that maybe we don’t need so many council staff…