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:
A high priority for the new “balanced” York Council should be to sort out its winter maintenance programmes
The City was very fortunate last year when warm weather persisted for virtually the whole of the winter.
We would lucky if this happened for a second year.
One of the most unpopular cuts made by York’s Labour Council was the removal of many salt bins.
Most of the bins had been provided by ward committees following a ballot of residents priorities. Local residents are often the best qualified to identify footpaths which are vulnerable to icing.
Some of the bins subsequently seemed to escape the cull. Some even still have salt in them.
However, the salt bin location map shown on the York Councils web site is inaccurate.
In other areas, some carriageways have been excluded from the gritting schedules despite the roads being on bus routes.
All in all, there is a need for a review of the system before the snow arrives.
The Council could make a start by clearing the existing salt bins of rubbish and refilling those that need it.
New figures reveal that Labour run York Council overspent this year’s winter maintenance budget despite it being one of the mildest winters on record.
The council’s 2013/14 winter budget, which funds gritting and salt bins, was £107,000 in the red despite the city seeing no significant snowfall or prolonged frosts this winter. This has led to concerns that recent cuts by Labour have left the budget dangerously low and if next winter sees more typical weather there will be major disruption in York.
Labour has cut the winter maintenance budget every year since coming to power in 2011, and last year took 30 miles of road off the priority gritting list while cutting two-thirds of the city’s salt bins.
Cllr Ann Reid, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environmental Services, commented:
“It is extraordinary that despite it being the fifth mildest winter since national records began the Labour Council has still overspent its budget.
“Cuts by Labour have reduced gritting routes and salt bins across York and therefore reduced the city’s capacity to cope with bad weather. If we have a more typical winter next year then the budget is just not there to ensure roads and paths are gritted and residents are kept safe.
“Liberal Democrat budget plans called for an extra £30,000 to be put into winter services and an extra £500,000 to be given to communities for local priorities such as extra salt bins or gritting. This would ensure that the resource was there to cope with bad weather.
“Labour got lucky this winter. However, the policy of spending money on city-centre vanity projects like Kings Square instead of on frontline services like gritting roads will catch-up with them.”
The remaining 121 bins are now set to be removed.
- 31 salt bins are being taken over by Parish Councils
- 6 are being adopted by Residents Associations
- 2 others have been sponsored by other groups
Meanwhile the last Council meeting heard that the total number of “snow wardens” in the City has increased to 208.
Their postcodes can now be viewed on a map (click here)
The spread of “snow wardens” across the City is very uneven.
The Council’s review committee will meet on Monday 21st October to look again at Labour Councillor Levene’s plans to cut de-icing activities.
He decided last week to scrap most salt bins in the City and remove many roads from the routine gritting schedules.
This is a major issue which potentially affects the safety of all York residents.
The meeting will take place at West Offices starting at 5:00pm
A copy of the agenda and supporting papers can be found by clicking here
Residents may also attend and speak at the meeting. To do so you must register to speak before the meeting by contacting Jill Pickering on York 552061 (E-mail : email@example.com)
The deadline for registering is 5.00pm on Friday 18 October 2013.
The telephone numbers and Email addresses of the members of the committee are reproduced below. Residents can contact them to make representations
Councillor John Galvin Chair (Conservative) 01904 704829 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Sandy Fraser (Labour) 01904 651443 Email: email@example.com
Councillor David Horton (Labour) 01904 777274 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Lynn Jeffries (LibDem) 01904 551088 Email: email@example.com
Councillor Ken King (Labour) 01904 783024 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Neil McIlveen (Labour) 01904 623062 Email: email@example.com
Councillor Ruth Potter (Labour) Phone: 01904 438634. Mobile: 07947 539725 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Carol Runciman (LibDem) 01904 764356 Email: email@example.com
Councillor Chris Steward (Conservative) 01904 638810 Bus. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
City of York Council has been forced to extend its “on line only” winter maintenance consultation for a further two weeks. It will now close on Sunday 15 September.
The Council was heavily criticised for holding the consultation during the main school holidays.
This was compounded a few days ago when the maps of the new gritting routes were unavailable on the Council’s web site.
In some areas it is proposed to remove around 80% of the salt bins from local streets.
Several major bus routes will no longer be routinely salted (e.g. Ryecroft Avenue, part of Chaloners Road , the Dringthorpe estate plus dozens of other streets)
However the survey questions are heavily “loaded” with little opportunity for residents to tell the Council to look elsewhere for economies.
Residents are being advised to write in “safety comes first, no cuts to de-icing services”
The survey can be found by clicking here
Alternatively the Council now says that residents can visit their “reception at West offices, Station Rise, York where the maps will be available on display boards with facilities available for you to complete the survey from Monday 2nd September.
Those groups who cannot meet this timescale can send their comments to Stephen Moulds by 30 September 2013 and we will endeavour to consider those comments when making a final decision on 9th October 2013”.
The Council is asking residents whether it should cut even further the number of salt bins available in the City. They also plan to reduce the number of roads that are gritted (salted).
From Monday 12 August until Sunday 1 September, residents and businesses are invited to complete a three-week consultation on the criteria which is used to help determine how and where the council provides winter maintenance across the city.
To take part in the survey or view the criteria and gritting maps please visit: http://www.york.gov.uk/info/200262/gritting/402/winter_maintenance_services (from Monday 12 August).