Cutting the cost of road gritting

Slippery slope: Gritter.

Slippery slope: Gritter.

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CONSULTATION has been launched on plans to cut the cost of gritting roads by almost a third in Derbyshire – where the service overspent by £1m a year.

The county council responsible for salting streets in Dronfield, Eckington, Chesterfield and the Hope Valley is proposing to reduce the number of gritters and rank roads into three tiers for gritting priority.

The top tier – A roads, B roads and major bus routes – would continue to be salted, as would a secondary tier of roads to outlying villages and main residential streets. But it is proposed locals and businesses should get involved in gritting the third tier of smaller roads. The Conservative-run council also wants to make greater use of private contractors.

But the plans have been criticised by Labour opposition councillors who say the proposals will leave 40 per cent of roads gritted only between 9am and 5pm.

They add the proposed £1m annual saving equals a 28 per cent budget cut.

In Sheffield, council chiefs spend £1.49m a year to keep roads running and have extra cash in reserve.

Derbyshire County Council’s opposition Labour leader, Coun Anne Western, called the Derbyshire idea “astonishing”.

“Last year thousands of Derbyshire residents were stranded due to the authority’s inability to keep our roads open and moving, unlike neighbouring councils in Sheffield, Rotherham and Nottinghamshire.

“Many elderly people were unable to get to the shops to get basic food stuff, schools and hospitals were badly hit and residents were unable to get to work. We are arguing for the budget to be restored to its previous level of £3.5 million.”

An online petition has been set up by a Bolsover resident opposing cuts. It can be signed at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/council/have_your_say/Petitions/

A council spokesman said: “Public consultation is to last until October 12. There will also need to be discussions with bus operators and others.”