Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ rant about “over-zealous” councils wasting money on highway clutter has been slapped down by Wirral highways chief Harry Smith.

The Government is urging councils across England to cut unnecessary road signs, railing and advertising hoardings in a bid to makes streets tidier and safer.

Mr Pickles insisted that lots of signs were unsightly, unnecessary and could leave motorists confused.

Councils have been contacted and urged to cut the clutter.

Mr Pickles said: “Our streets are losing their English character. We are being over-run by scruffy signs, bossy bollards, patchwork paving and railed-off roads – wasting taxpayers’ money that could be better off fixing potholes or keeping council tax down.

“Too many overly-cautious town hall officials are citing safety regulations as the reason for cluttering up our streets with an obstacle course, when the truth is, very little is dictated by law.”

He added: “Commons sense tells us uncluttered streets have a fresher, freer authentic feel, which are safer and easier to maintain.”

Councillor Smith insisted that much of what the Government suggested on highway signage was already carried out in Wirral.

“We only put up signage when it is absolutely necessary,” he said.

“We try to do it in a way that is both helpful to the road users and sensitive to the local environment.”

Councillor Smith stressed that the Government was not proposing to provide any further funding for local authorities to carry out their suggestions.

He said: “In the current financial climate |I think there are more pressing demands on the council’s budget than funding this work ourselves.”