Sheffield gritting cuts proved to be ‘step too far’

A gritter crashed after being called to grit an icy Douse Croft Lane in Sheffield's Mayfield Valley, during the recent cold snap. Picture: Tim Hale.
A gritter crashed after being called to grit an icy Douse Croft Lane in Sheffield's Mayfield Valley, during the recent cold snap. Picture: Tim Hale.

Gritting cuts proved to be ‘a step too far’, Sheffield Council’s leader has admitted as the authority fights to balance its books.

A controversial reduction in the number of city roads gritted before snow, made to save £100,000, was reversed after scores of crashes on icy roads in December.

The removal of grit bins as part of the same cut is also under review after heavy snow and ice caused chaos over Christmas.

It is understood no money was saved before the U-turn and now further savings to make up the £100,000 could be part of next year’s council budget.

The authority is facing up to £60m of cuts in 2014-15 - on top of £240m of Government cuts in the last four years - and council leader Julie Dore said it was ‘down to the bone’.

Coun Dore, who personally took up the gritting issue and said it was reversed as soon as it was thought lives could be at risk, said: “ “I really think it is the toughest budget we’ve had to set, not just in the last four to five years but in recent history.

“Gritting is a prime example that highlights how difficult the cuts are.

“On paper we have to balance our budget and look at everything - do we cut gritting or look at social care?

“We made a decision and it was a balanced decision based on information, evidence and consultation with different people - we don’t take any cut decision lightly, it is serious discussion about every single one.

“We made that decision and when we saw the impact, on that occasion we felt it went a little bit too far.

“That’s why balancing this year’s budget is the most difficult - and we’ll probably be saying the same next year - because we are down to the bone.”

Coun Dore also said many big decisions - such as closing Don Valley and relinquishing control of libraries - had already been taken which meant it was even harder to find reductions.

She added: “We know every decision we take impacts on something but we take the decisions, we assess the risks, we assess the impact and in the gritting case it was proved that it was a step too far .

“Now it has been reversed we’ve got to find that saving from somewhere else.

“The difficulty is doing that and not having the same impact on other services.”