AS Yorkshire braces itself for the next cold snap, the postcode lottery over road gritting will inevitably come into sharp focus as some local councils take their public service obligations more seriously than others.
Primarily a safety issue, it is also an economic one and today’s revelations by The Yorkshire Post need to be seen in this context. If people can’t get to work, or the shops, because the main roads are impassable or treacherous, it hits productivity.
And it does not end here – one reason why so many hospitals are so overstretched is because of the number of casualties being treated following road accidents – or pedestrians who have slipped on the snow and ice.
It is disappointing that certain town halls need to be reminded of their statutory responsibilities. Long-suffering ratepayers expect key routes to be gritted during cold weather – it’s an integral element of their council tax – and some councils are skating on thin ice with their excuses as main routes, the A65 in Leeds being a prime example, are left untreated with increased frequency. Sorry, but residents should not be expected to take their life into their own hands and salt such busy roads.
Yet, while basic geography means that gritting operations need to be more extensive in undulating towns and cities such as Sheffield, a reasonable balance does need to be struck between councils and the people that they purport to serve.
After all, it’s simply impractical to grit every side street – or pavement. Residents, too, do need to show a sense of community and help out each other so the elderly and immobile are not left house-bound for prolonged periods. Likewise shops and businesses should take collective ownership of adjacent pavements.
The distribution of grit bins is a start. And the spirit is more than willing in a proud county renowned for its ‘can do’ approach to life. The problem is that the council processes are so convoluted that public-spirited citizens are now more likely to trip over the red-tape than the ice.