English councils have been forced to make £48m worth of cuts to their gritting budgets in the last year alone and now fear that the icy conditions on ungritted pavements will see a rise in accident and emergency admissions due to falls. Councils in Yorkshire and Humber have seen an average reduction of 28 per cent in their 2018-19 gritting budget compared to 2017-18.
At least one in three adults over 65 is likely to have at least one fall a year, with half falling more frequently, and these accidents can have life changing effects for elderly people and ramp up pressure on already-overstretched local hospitals.
Coun Sir Stephen Houghton, chairman of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (SIGOMA) said: “As the freezing weather worsens, it’s vital that we look out for the elderly who may be particularly nervous about driving on the roads or walking to the shops. Government cuts to local authority budgets in our areas mean that we simply don’t have enough resources to grit every pavement and road.”
Compared to last year, councils in the North-East (34% cut to gritting budget), East-Midlands (34% cut) North-West (28% cut) and the West-Midlands (27% cut) have been hardest hit by cuts to gritting budgets. This is despite these areas having worse weather conditions and more snow compared to other areas, which have only faced a 10 per cent reduction.
Sir Stephen added: “Councils in areas like the North, which tend to bear the brunt of winter weather conditions, have had to make hard choices about how to allocate budgets which have been slashed year-on-year. Most are struggling to keep essential services such as social care and children’s services going and simply cannot afford to do as much as they were able to previously.”