Winter maintenance budgets at Bradford Council have been slashed by 17 per cent since 2010, new figures show, in the wake of ongoing Government cuts.
The authority, admitting it has had to make some tough decisions, is now calling on residents to “do their bit” as it reveals some roads will no longer be gritted.
“We want to keep the major roads open,” said Coun Alex Ross-Shaw, executive member for regeneration, planning and transport. “That means some other roads can’t be done. It’s just something that we can’t afford anymore.”
Since 2011, Bradford Council has had to cut £172.6m from its budget due to reductions in Government grants. Between 2016 and 2018, a further £53.3 million will have to cut. Now, it emerges the authority’s winter maintenance budgets have also been cut as a result, from £951,000 in 2010 to £791,000 for winter 2016.
“We have had to make some difficult decisions,” said Coun Ross-Shaw. “Nobody wants to, but that’s the position we have found ourselves in because of Government cuts. We still cover an extensive area. It’s just a difficult environment that we are operating in now.”
Philip Burgess, secretary general of the Salt Association, said winter resilience budgets must be ringfenced to ensure local authorities are fully prepared for winter. And Luke Bosdet, from the AA, said the priority is to be open about what will be done.
“We do not like cutbacks in winter budgets,” he said. “With heavy snow the elderly are effectively marooned in their homes as they are scared of a fall. That is how high the stakes are.”
The key thing, he said, is to manage expectations so that communities aren’t left stranded when bad weather hits.
“The first issue is being straight with drivers,” he said. “It all comes down to what the council says it’s going to do if the weather turns nasty. They will pay the price if the community finds itself effectively unable to go about its business.”
Bradford Council’s fleet of 23 gritting wagons will be out on their 626 miles of route on Saturday October 15, in a dry run to test its equipment before the weather turns. The authority, in official advice issued, is calling on residents to make their own preparations for the coming winter, stocking up on rock salt and investing in snow shovels and suitable footwear.
Fit and active residents working together as a community can soon clear a cul-de-sac or minor roads, the authority has said. And, if residents have to drive, they are urged to carry grit as well as emergency provisions in case they have to abandon their cars.
“In heavy snow, it is impossible for the council to keep the roads clear and traffic flowing as though the conditions were ideal, especially during rush hour,” the council guidance warned.
WINTER BUDGETS REMAIN THE SAME
Local authorities in both Leeds and North Yorkshire have confirmed their winter maintenance budgets have stayed the same to keep gritting a priority for the coming winter. Leeds City Council has said its budgets, and service provision, are to remain exactly the same as last winter.
And North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), with a budget of over £6m, says it routinely treats more than half the network, 2,750 miles of road, which is more than any other county in England.
Priority one highways are treated morning and night during freezing conditions, it added.
“Dealing with severe winter conditions on such a large network is complex and expensive,” a spokesman said. “However, it remains a top priority to keep the county connected and on the move. Our winter service is the best resourced in England and once again we are well prepared.”