SOME OF Sheffield’s most vulnerable residents were made prisoners in their own homes due to the council’s “nonexistent” response to severe winter weather, community leaders have said.
An absence of gritting of roads and pavements in the wake of last week’s heavy snowfall has come in for heavy criticism across the city. Meanwhile, uncollected bins are still lining the streets in some of the worst-affected areas even though the snow and ice has melted away.
Community groups and councillors have voiced fears that winter maintenance teams will be unable to cope if such conditions strike again.
They claim the state of services have been hit by a recent decision cut the number of priority two roads gritted before snow in Sheffield by 94 miles in a bid to save £100,000 a year and meet budget cuts. The move also saw a cut in the number of grit bins in place in neighbourhoods across the city.
Labour-run city council had planned to axe even more, but was forced to amend plans following public outcry.
Mick Daniels, chairman of Brushes tenants and residents association, said: “The response has been nonexistent. A lot of people could not get off the estate for days.
“We delivered 150 parcels to over-60s before Christmas and I am glad we got them out. I imagine some people were living off little more than tins of soup because they could not get out to the shops during the worst of it.
“One of the council’s excuses was that Sheffield is ‘hilly’ so it is harder to clear the snow. Those hills haven’t just been put there.
“It’s been really bad, and you can’t believe they wanted to cut it even more than they did. I know they have to make savings but this shows that they are only thinking about money, public safety is not being taken into account.
“Surely all this has cost them money.”
Pensioner Nancy Grayson, who chairs Sheffield’s Fulwood TARA, has been inundated with calls from elderly people living in the area complaining about the winter weather response.
The 77-year-old told The Yorkshire Post: ““There was no gritting, no anything. Everything came to a standstill.
“At one point I think an ambulance would have not have got down the road here, and what you have to bear in mind is that 95 per cent of residents on this estate are elderly.
“People were literally marooned in their homes.
“It is only community spirit which has come to the rescue, good neighbours who have helped to clear paths.
“I am lucky because I have a supportive family and I am reasonably fit and healthy so I can get about, but others don’t have a network to fall back on.
“Thankfully the snow didn’t hang around but I’m very concerned for if it happens again and it lingers.”
Post-Christmas bin collections have been delayed across South Yorkshire in the wake of the heavy post-Christmas snowfall.
In Sheffield, waste contractors Veolia have been working beyond their regular hours in a bid to clear the backlog, but bins continued to line the streets more than a week after the bad weather hit.#
Coun Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for the environment on Sheffield Council, said: “After major events of this kind we look at how our services may be improved and how the city coped and we are starting that this week.
“I am keen though not to make snap judgements that could be ineffective or waste public money.”