A “BIZARRE” road safety campaign, which has secretly sprung up across Essex, has come under fire from residents and councillors.

Essex County Council, which is looking to make hundreds of redundancies in a bid to cut costs, has been stencilling drink-drive messages on pavements across the county.

Under the cover of darkness recently, a lorry and generator arrived and powered up outside the Albion pub, in Rowhedge High Street.

The noise woke up residents, including the six-month-old daughter of landlord Simon Taylor, who went outside to ask what was going on.

He said: “They said they were from Essex County Council and added, ‘you’re the reason why we’re doing this, because you sell the alcohol’.”

The next morning, Mr Taylor, his wife, Dawn, and baby, Sophia, went outside to see the message: “Whatever You Drive, Keep A Clean Licence – Driveessex.co.uk” stencilled on the pavement.

The website contains a computer game where drivers have to spot and click on potential hazards, along with further details of the campaign.

Mr Taylor said: “I fully agree with the message, don’t get me wrong.

“But it’s the way they’ve done it. They have woken up my daughter and other people with a generator sandblasting a message on the pathway.”

Other parts of Essex have similar stencils heated on to the concrete, including several on pavements in North Hill, Colchester.

Ward borough councillor Mike Lilley questioned the use of County Hall resource, saying the message in Rowhedge had faded within days.

He said: “It’s one of those bizarre things Essex County Council does.

“In Rowhedge there are still a number of potholes waiting to be filled by highways officers.

“So why are they wasting money by people working at night and putting signs down that last two days?”

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “The stencils are part of a road safety campaign targeting young car drivers, who are involved in a third of all accidents in Essex.

“Its aim is to encourage them to re-evaluate their driving behaviour. The cost of the street stencils was £6,400 and they were placed in Basildon, Braintree, Chelmsford and Colchester, which were key locations for young driver accidents.

“They are an exceptionally cost-effective, targeted medium that is unusual in its display format and gives it unprecedented penetration with the target audience.”