Gritting cuts have ‘horrified’ county councillors who back calls for U-turn

Some West Sussex councillors have called on the authority to do a U-turn and reverse its decision to cut the number of roads being gritted this winter.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 9:55 am
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 10:17 am

Dozens of roads have been dropped from the gritting timetable in a move that will save around £150,000 – but councillors have been fielding a deluge of complaints and concerns.

Earlier this week this newspaper, along with its sister titles across West Sussex, launched a campaign backing calls for the changes to be reversed.

With the county in the middle of a cold snap, members of the performance and finance select committee shared their own worries on Thursday (December 5), particularly about the number of bus routes which would not be gritted.

The issue of gritting had been raised in an earlier scrutiny meeting, though details of exactly which roads would be dropped had not been made available to members.

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate & Gossops Green) said that when he did finally see the maps he was ‘horrified’.

He added: “All the urban areas in particular appear to have been very badly hit and I think that has got to be a concern for us.”

Andrew Barrett-Miles (Con, Burgess Hill North), who chaired that meeting, disagreed with Mr Jones’s claim the scrutiny process had not ‘covered itself in glory’ over the issue.

He told members that his committee had looked at information about A and B roads being gritted along with other essential routes, such as those leading to schools.

Mr Barrett-Miles said: “We agreed with those principles but we also wanted to have each local area review what was happening.

“We’ve only just got the information. I’m horrified as well.

“There are roads which are bus routes and Safer Routes To School and that’s gone against their principles, so I’ve expressed my displeasure.

“I don’t think it was a failure of scrutiny. It was the timing and then the fact that none of us had access to the details until now. We’ve rightly disagreed with it.”

Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) was another who complained about the lack of consultation with local members, who knew their patches well.

And Bryan Turner (Con, Broadwater) was worried un-gritted roads would prevent carers from visiting their patients as the winter weather worsened.

Chairman Joy Dennis (Con, Hurstpierpoint & Bolney) said she and others had already written to cabinet member Roger Elkins on the matter and pledged to do so again on behalf of the committee.

She added: “He’ll be discussing it with his officers and I’m sure there might be some communication coming from him.”

Dr Walsh stressed that Mr Elkins needed to do something now and ‘not in April’.