Liberal Democrat councillors are urging Labour run City of York Council to be properly prepared for winter and not to gamble on continuing mild weather.
The warning comes amid growing concerns that York will not be able to cope with snowy and icy weather following cuts to the winter maintenance budget.
Since 2011 Labour has cut the council’s winter budget every year and last year took 30 miles of road off the priority gritting list and stopped funding two-thirds of salt bins. Whilst Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners worked with parish councils and residents groups to save some salt bins, many were still lost.
Council budget cuts meant that despite last year’s mild weather, York still overspent its winter budget by around £100,000 leading to fears how it will cope with bad weather this year.
Now Lib Dem councillors have written to the Labour Cabinet Member responsible calling on the council to make sure it is ‘ready for winter’ and to work with local residents to identify gaps in provision.
Cllr Ann Reid, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environmental Services, commented:
“Despite the recent mild weather I have spoken to many residents in recent weeks who are asking for salt bins to be replaced and roads to be put back on gritting routes as we approach winter. Residents have also raised concerns about salt bins which have been left to rot and are now without lids or full of rubbish.
“Last year the council was fortunate to have a particularly mild winter, but it must make sure it is ready for winter this year and able to cope if more seasonal weather comes in the next few months. It needs to work with local residents and community groups to identify and tackle gaps in provision. These frontline services need to be the priority rather than Labour’s vanity projects in the city-centre.
“While I am pleased to see that the snow warden service is restarting – now in its fourth season having been brought in by the previous Lib Dem administration – this team of volunteers needs proper support from the council, and officers who work hard to keep the city running need support from the top.”
Liberal Democrat councillors have sent the following letter to the Labour Cabinet Member responsible:
Despite the unseasonably mild weather thoughts are turning to how the city will cope over the winter following cuts to the winter maintenance budget.
The current administration has cut the council’s winter maintenance budget every year and residents have seen roads taken off the priority gritting route and salt bins disappear.
While we appreciate the efforts that front line staff put into keeping the city running during snowy and icy conditions, we are concerned that there is a gamble being placed on continuing mild weather and another mild winter this year. It is concerning that last year’s budget, which was overspent despite the mild winter, has not been increased for this year and cuts have not been reversed.
Several salt bins across York have been removed in key locations, and in others they are unusable following a lack of basic maintenance. Some are full of rubbish and will therefore need work to prepare them for use this winter.
We therefore hope that before it is too late the council works with local residents, parish councils and community groups to identify gaps in provision and necessary work and that steps are brought in to ensure all areas are prepared for winter.
Cllr Ann Reid
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environmental Services on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group