We have criticised Caerphilly County Borough Council for claiming that its legal duties to maintain public paths are merely discretionary.
The council’s online survey on its budget, ‘help us to shape your services’, asks for the public’s views on what it calls ‘discretionary services’ It includes in these ‘Country parks, including public rights of way and environmental maintenance’.
We have written to the acting chief executive, Stuart Rosser, to point out that the maintenance of public rights of way, ie footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic, is not discretionary but a legal duty.
We believe that the council is misleading the public by claiming that rights-of-way maintenance is discretionary. The council has a legal duty to ensure that all public rights of way are open and available for use.
This service should not be up for grabs, it must be undertaken or the council could find itself in court for failure to carry out its legal duty, which is spelt out in section 130 of the Highways Act 1980.
In any case, the council shoots itself in the foot by ignoring public rights of way. Good-quality paths attract visitors who spend money as well as being a crucial service for local people. People need the path network for their health and happiness.
So we have called on the council to amend its survey forthwith by removing the reference to rights of way as a discretionary service.