Updated: Thursday, 19th September 2019 @ 4:44pm

Greater Manchester council cuts to road gritting spend branded 'stupid and dangerous' by campaigners

Greater Manchester council cuts to road gritting spend branded 'stupid and dangerous' by campaigners

By Dominic Claeys-Jackson

Gritting expenditure in Greater Manchester has dropped by a third over the last two years – a move branded 'stupid and dangerous' by campaigners.

Around £5.25million was spent gritting the region’s roads in 2011/12, compared to £7.85million in 2009/10 – a 33% reduction.

And with winter in full swing, two councils – Tameside and Trafford – are budgeted to reduce costs even further this year.

Keith Peat, from the Alliance of British Drivers, said: “We find the statistics appalling.

“The whole country is dependent on road transport to function properly – from normal members of the public, to the emergency services.

“Such a cut in spending is seriously damaging to everyone.

“It is stupid, dangerous, and will certainly cause accidents which in turn could cause deaths.”

Councils across Greater Manchester have set a collective gritting budget of more than £5.7million this year – a 9% increase on 2011/12’s expenditure.

However, Trafford and Tameside are budgeted for a third consecutive reduction, setting budgets of £200,476 (-27% from 2011/12) and £500,000 (-7% from 2011/12) respectively.

Indeed, expenditure in Trafford had already plunged by 45% from 2009/10 to 2011/12, whilst Tameside had dropped by 25%.

Executive Councillor at Trafford Council, Alan Mitchell, said that the huge drops were down to strategic reshuffles.

"I can assure Trafford residents that we are well prepared to deal with any extreme weather this winter,” he said.

“Over the past few years we have improved our route planning which has enabled us to do an even better job of gritting at a reduced cost.

“However, it is important to say that the council will always increase its winter maintenance budget in severe weather conditions to ensure that our main roads are kept open for business."

Eight of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs witnessed a year-on-year reduction in gritting expenditure between 2009/10 and 2011/12.

The biggest fall belonged to Bury, who saw a 47% drop from £500,000 to £266,900; Bolton (45%) and Manchester (44%) also saw massive falls.

While such declines may justifiably be explained through milder winter weather, Salford and Rochdale actually upped gritting expenditure by 39% and 18% respectively. 

The number of days spent gritting also significantly decreased across all Greater Manchester’s boroughs.

In 2009/10, the average amount of days spent gritting the roads stood at 82, yet this had reduced by 44% to just 46 last year.

Manchester was lowest in 2009/10 with 47, but last year Tameside took over the mantle with 31.

Bolton spent the most on gritting in all three years and gritted on the most days in both 2009/10 and 2010/11.

However, they still saw a reduction from 162 days to 64 days of gritting.

Councillor Nick Peel, Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, emphasised that gritting expenditure was dependent on weather, not cuts.

“In 11/12 our drivers went out and treated the roads when necessary but because it was a milder winter compared with previous years we gritted on fewer occasions,” he said.

“We actually spread more than 2900 tonnes of grit between November 2011 and April 2012 over our roads and the grit stock we had left over has contributed to our stock levels this year.

“The decision on whether to grit is made by dedicated staff who monitor and interpret weather data.

“The process we use in Bolton has also been recognised nationally as good practice.” 

However, Mr Peat said that he believed that the overall regional slump in gritting reflected the general nationwide attitude to road safety.

“Road safety in this country is all about either making money or saving money,” he said.

“The government, councils and police are quick enough to put up speed traps and create new camera-controlled 20mph, all in the name of road safety.

“But then they reduce safety on the roads as soon as spending serious spending comes into play.

“Road safety should never be a part of budget cuts.”

Picture courtesy of Essygie, with thanks.

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