This scheme, running for the past two years, is an initiative whereby basic highway maintenance can by undertaken by local volunteers through their Parish Council. Devon County Council (DCC) has recently proposed a less bureaucratic written Agreement for those Councils interested in signing up. In essence DCC will train volunteers in ‘Chapter 8’ (i.e. road traffic safety) and supply materials, while volunteers will undertake various activities such as small drainage works and filling in potholes.
Feniton Parish Council (FPC) discussed this matter at its meeting on 13 March. While all were agreed that the roads around the village are in need of maintenance, particularly in respect of potholes, there was considerable unease about the Parish Council assuming direct responsibility for such minor works. For example, volunteers would need to be physically fit in order to transport the 25kg bags of road repair materials; there would likely be an assumption from the public that volunteers would be signing up ‘for life’, with the inevitable consequence that the burden would fall on the shoulders of a few volunteers doing the work and a few councillors already trained in Chapter 8. Two particular issues were of concern: firstly, the insurance cover offered by DCC was not sufficiently robust. For example, while the cover takes into account accidental damage or personal injury as a result of a road repair, the responsibility for ensuring that the repair was carried out correctly in the first place falls to the Parish Council. FPC does not feel that it should be quality controlling and policing repairs carried out on the village’s roads, and in the event of any claim, the Council could find itself the victim of difficult and expensive litigation. Also, the Agreement would not cover loss of earnings if a volunteer was off work as a result of the repairs, e.g. back strain. Moreover, in the event that repairs undertaken did not conform exactly to the Agreement, FPC would also have to indemnify DCC against any claims made. Finally, by undertaking this responsibility, FPC would be creating a precedent, i.e. all sorts of work currently the responsibility of the District Council could be offloaded in future.
On this basis the Parish Council agreed that it would not sign up to the Community Road Warden Scheme. As always, if residents of Feniton have complaints regarding the condition of road surfaces these should be directed not towards the Parish Council or District Councillor, but logged on the DCC website https://new.devon.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/report-a-problem/map/map_src/poth/ Remember – the more people who report via this link, the more likely the road will be repaired!