Opposition Labour councillors say budget cuts have left Stoke-on-Trent struggling to cope with the recent wintry weather.
They claim they have been ‘inundated’ by complaints from residents about empty grit bins in their wards, and argue that poor planning has left pavements ‘like ice rinks’.
The Labour councillors also say that spending cuts at Stoke-on-Trent City Council have hampered the authority’s ability to respond to snowfall and icy conditions, with the number of gritters being reduced to seven in recent years.
Group leader Jane Ashworth has now written to council leader Abi Brown asking her to ‘step up and take control’ of the issue.
Ms Ashworth said: “Residents need the council leader to take a firmer, more decisive approach when harsh weather hits, too many residents have been left to cope on their own during the recent snowfall.
“Many of the problems endured over the last few days are due to the Conservative administration’s cuts which have left the city without an effective plan to deal with the problem.
“The gritting team has worked incredibly hard and along with residents we are extremely grateful for their hard work. Sadly, however, the administration’s cuts have left the city without enough gritters, grit and staff to deal with the problem.
“There used to be 14 gritters, it has been cut down to about seven.”
David Williams, councillor for Little Chell, Mill Hill and Stanfields, says residents reported empty grit bins at six locations in the ward last Monday and Tuesday.
He said: “This was clearly not a localised issue as my fellow councillors were being contacted with the same issues across the city. One area affected in my ward was Greenbank Road which we all know is treacherous during icy weather.
“It is incredibly disappointing that when kind-hearted, concerned residents wanted to help their neighbours by helping to grit dangerous pavements and roads, as soon as they opened the grit bins they found them empty of grit or filled with water and rubbish.”
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“Grit bins are there for a reason. I am calling on the council to take a proactive approach by ensuring grit bins are filled at the start of the winter season and that they are monitored and refilled as necessary so that residents are not left at risk.”
Stoke-on-Trent Live reported last week how paramedics were called out after a pensioner slipped and cut her head on an icy pavement in Smallthorne.
Mrs Brown says the city council’s highways team has been working ‘flat out’ to respond to the wintry weather over the festive period, and that officers were doing their best to respond to reports of empty grit bins.
She said: “Our highways team have done a fantastic job over the last few days. It’s worth remembering that the officers who drive the gritters have got other jobs within the authority, and they have to be on call over the entire winter period.
“We have an extensive network of grit bins across the city. We actually changed the policy we inherited from the previous Labour administration, so that now any resident, or councillor, can report an empty grit bin throughout the year. The team is working very hard but they will respond to these requests as soon as they can.”
Mrs Brown says that apart from that, the council’s approach to gritting, including the gritting routes, has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years.