Northamptonshire County Council approves cuts to winter gritting service

Snowplough clearing the county roads during bad weather.
Snowplough clearing the county roads during bad weather.

A controversial plan to cut back the winter gritting service was rubber stamped yesterday.

Despite meeting with a frosty reception from a number of county councillors, the Conservative cabinet at Northamptonshire County Council has ploughed ahead with its plan that will see 400km less of roads gritted this winter and 500 salt bins left unfilled.

The move will save the council £475,000 as it tries to save up to £65m before April.

At the meeting Cllr Ian Morris, who has responsibility for highways, said: “We have had to look for service cuts and we have tried to do it as sensitively as possible and safely as we can.

“We will make sure that every village has a route out and in and still snow plough in adverse conditions.”

But the cutbacks, which will see the gritting fleet reduced from 26 to 19 and the number of maintained grit bins drop from 1973 to 1473, were severely criticised by opposition councillors from across the county.

Cllr Chris Stanbra, who represents the Oakley ward in Corby, asked the cabinet members: “Are you seriously suggesting you will be keeping people safe?

“I don’t subscribe to that view.

“I am asking you to vote this down.

“This will save £475,000 in a year.

“It is a tiny proportion of the savings the county needs to make and it is going to have a huge impact.”

Cllr Danielle Stone, who represents the Abington and Phippsville ward in Northampton, said there were five grit bins in her ward that will now not be filled.

She said: “I’m really worried about the impact on people and that is not one of the assessments when decisions have been made.

“It is making the community more vulnerable.

“This is going to make them even less safe.”

The council had put a proposal to the parishes to take over grit bins but had only given them a few weeks to sign up, with many not meeting during that time to make a decision.

They will now be given a second chance to say whether they will take over the redundant bins and fill them themselves.

Cllr Jim Hakewill, for the Rothwell and Mawsley ward, said the council’s moves would impact many villagers and rural businesses which relied on ice-free roads in and out of the village to bring goods in.

He said: “In 2005 there was a clear Conservative pledge there would be more gritted roads.

“A lot of people voted Conservative in the rural areas because they felt reassured by that.”

But council leader Matt Golby said “It is tough decisions like these that we have to take.”

The council is being led by two government commissioners, who have masterminded the stabilisation plan.