gritting - Cheshire East Gritter - winter gritting

Cheshire East Council has refused to allow its councillors to use their ward budgets to pay for gritting on treacherous roads because it goes against its new winter policy, writes Belinda Ryan.

The Labour/Independent administration axed around 100 roads from its winter gritting route when it introduced its new policy this winter – including busy rural routes like Coole Lane and Checkley Lane near Nantwich.

In a separate move, the council last year also approved giving all 82 councillors £4,200 from the highways budget which they could spend in their wards.

But councillors who asked to use the cash to grit roads removed from the winter gritting programme have been refused on the grounds it isn’t “policy compliant”.

At the audit and governance committee meeting, chair and Wistaston Cllr Margaret Simon (Con) was one of several councillors unhappy money could not be used to help keep residents safe.

“A couple of members, including myself, recently asked if we could use our ward budgets this year to bridge the gap with winter gritting in our wards.

“And then, quite clearly in this policy, it says it’s not complying with policy so I’m expecting a knock back on my request – and I understand other members have all already been knocked back on that.

“So how can this be changed if it’s a council policy?”

She asked if there was any way it could be done “to try and make our residents safe”.

Andrew Ross, director of CEC highways and infrastructure, told the committee: “Given that the council’s adopted a new winter gritting policy, if we’re seeking roads to be gritted outside of that policy then they won’t comply with this scheme.”

At a meeting of the council’s highways and transport committee last week, former council leader Rachel Bailey (Con) said there been a number of accidents on Coole Lane in her Audlem ward since Cheshire East stopped gritting it.

She also told how that particular road was so treacherous one frosty day the police had called highways to grit it.

She is another councillor whose request to use her ward funding for gritting was refused.

Cllr David Marren (Ind), vice chair of audit and governance, was angry the ward budget scheme had been “derailed”.

He said it was not a “pilot” scheme as officers kept claiming, but had gone through full council and been accepted as a scheme likely to be widened.

He said: “This was a matter of every councillor is given £4,200 and the constraint set is constrained by the government rules, not by previous council decisions because this was a new council decision.

“I think it’s been derailed.”

He added although much of the discussion had centred around highways this “was a discussion about whether a decision of council had been implemented properly, which I maintain it hasn’t”.

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