THE loss of important road safety schemes in North Devon could be a grim portent of things to come and the first of many cuts as public money dries up, a local councillor has warned. Devon County Council has decided to stop work on four local projects to

THE loss of important road safety schemes in North Devon could be a grim portent of things to come and the first of many cuts as public money dries up, a local councillor has warned.

Devon County Council has decided to stop work on four local projects to improve safety, after budget cuts announced by the new coalition government.

They are: Boutport, Bear and Queen Streets in Barnstaple, the B3232 between Huntshaw and Roundswell, the Square in Braunton and the B3227 between Chittlehampton and Umberleigh.

The work, worth £183,000, mostly involves renewing signs and lines, and traffic calming, but the Braunton scheme would have added a pedestrian phase to traffic lights in Caen Street.

Local county councillor Rodney Cann said the news was bitterly disappointing and a warning that worse was yet to come: "I'm aware services right across the county are being reviewed," he said. "Highways is a frontline service, so important to a rural area like North Devon, so this is going to be a recipe for disaster.

"The halting of work on the B3232 is particularly disappointing as this road has had a number of accidents in recent years. Work had only just been approved after years of campaigning, so to lose it within weeks is a bitter blow."

He said the situation applied right across the county, but with "a major backlog" of highways maintenance building in North Devon, difficult times could soon turn into crisis.

"The budget was cut last year, they are looking for significant cuts this year - and it's only going to get worse. At the moment they wait until roads become a safety problem, but it's a very short-sighted policy. If we don't get the roads right the economy and tourism will suffer, while businesses will not want to come here."

Devon receives nearly £630 million from the government and will see its budget fall by £3.9 million - a 0.6 per cent cut. Leader John Hart said the council was very much aware the country could no longer "go on spending four pounds for every three it earns."

"We have known that we have been approaching tough times and the present administration came into office knowing we would have to take action to get the council in a position to meet the challenge we were going to face," he said.

Mr Hart said a freeze on recruiting new staff would save £20 million over two years, but still protect frontline services.

He and cabinet vice-chairman Cllr John Clatworthy had reverted to 2005 members' allowance levels, while chief executive Phil Norrey was drawing a 2005 salary.

Another money saving scheme is looking at sharing "back office" services with district councils.

But Mr Hart said until a government spending review was completed in October, the council would not know the details of what it might be asked to do to save money.