MORE than 3,000 'rights of way' routes across Worcestershire have defects - leading to furious claims council chiefs are providing a "Cinderella service".

Your Worcester News can reveal how a backlog of 3,132 complaints over problems with public routes are still outstanding including problems like obstructions or uneven, damaged surfacing.

Critics say Worcestershire County Council has slashed its budget for public rights of way 27 per cent since 2010, leaving it at £192,000.

Rights of way routes cover some of the most picturesque parts of Worcestershire, and are especially popular with dog walkers and runners.

Councillor Richard Udall, Labour's rural affairs spokesman at County Hall, says the authority needs to "get a grip" on it.

He said: "People come from across the country and the world to enjoy the beautiful Worcestershire countryside - the public have a right to walk without hindrance across our network of public footpaths and bridleways.

"The council has got rid of inspectors and have reduced them to a Cinderella service, unable to respond to the complaints received.

"A huge backlog of 3,132 complaints about outstanding defects exists and this cannot continue.

"We simply cannot afford to let county land owners to block off, obstruct and close public footpaths.

"The rights to enjoy public footpaths were won by working people using mass trespass to gain the freedom to walk in our countryside.

"If we are not careful those rights will be undermined by deliberate neglect by our council."

He has now sent a letter to Councillor Lucy Hodgson, who sits in the Conservative cabinet and is responsible for it, asking her to "get a grip".

Cllr Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "We continue to complete work to increase access, not least with the installation of 300 new gates and 25 bridges over the last year, alongside lots of work clearing vegetation and fixing signs.

"We work closely with a wide range of volunteers who complete a large amount of high quality work, including paths wardens and others to keep rights of way open and accessible for residents and visitors alike."

The council says some of the budget reductions have not affected the front line, like removing one storage depot which saved £26,000.

It also says the number of defects was 10,000 several years ago, although some of that is down to a review of how they are recorded.

A spokesman said the "vast majority" of the 3,132 outstanding are minor ones being dealt with on a priority basis.