Kent County Council today became the latest county council to come under attack for doing too little to keep roads and pavements safe during the recent cold snap.
Trudy Dean, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on Kent County Council, has called on officials to sort out a bureaucratic squabble which has left many pavements in residential areas impassable since the snow set in last Friday.
Dean has complained that a recent reorganisation has left borough councils unable to access salt and grit supplies held by the county.
Until a few years ago KCC delivered its highways services from 12 Highways Management Units (HMU) - one in each Borough across Kent. During periods of snow and ice the borough councils voluntarily made their street cleaning staff available to do the clearing of pavements using grit and salt supplied by the KCC HMU. A few years ago, however, KCC took away its highways services in a reorganisation into three county wide depots. Dean has argued that the council made this move without realising this would mean the loss of the Borough workforce, and is now trying to claim that the responsibility for pavement gritting lies with the Boroughs.
“The reorganisation resulted in two things. Firstly the Boroughs no longer have access to the salt and grit which is at the central depots and they have to rely on KCC deliveries. This year despite claims that KCC had enough road grit, in my area the Borough Council have been told that supplies are short, and even had to close one of their own car parks in West Malling at the request of the Police yesterday because they couldn’t get enough grit to combat the dangerous icy conditions.
“Secondly the staff at the more remote depots do not have the local knowledge to know where the most important and dangerous spots are where gritting is needed for the public to be able to get to shops and services safely. As a result many pavements have remained icy and dangerous and elderly and infirm residents are effectively marooned in their homes,” said Dean.
She has called on KCC to get its act together with the Boroughs to end the chaos and accidents.
“Kent Highways Services don’t appear to have learned the lessons from February this year when the same thing happened. People are not interested in bureaucratic squabbles. KCC should urgently return to the arrangement with the Boroughs and give them the grit to do the job,” she said.
The criticism of Kent comes a day after Cornwall County Council was forced to reveal that it was able to grit just 20% of its road network. The revelation came after a coach crash on an untreated road killed two people and injured more than 40 more.