West Lancashire MP, Rosie Cooper, today attacked the gritting policy failures of Lancashire County Council during a Parliamentary Debate. For the past two winters Rosie has been campaigning for the local highways authority to be more effective in keeping West Lancashire moving during periods of snow and ice.
Rosie used the speech to highlight how, in her view, Lancashire County Council is failing to meet its duty under the Highways Act 1980 to keep highways safe. She believes that the refusal to grit bus routes, industrial estates used by HGVs, pavements, and underpasses is risking people’s safety.
Rosie said: “It is simply incredible that in the 21st Century that my constituency, West Lancashire, was virtually brought to a standstill; that people were trapped in their homes and businesses stopped from trading all because of snow, ice and the failure of Lancashire County Council to take the necessary action.”
The West Lancashire MP told Transport Minister, Chris Mole MP, that she believes currently there is no benchmark to measure the performance of the local authority against. She argued there is no organisation which holds the County Council to account over its failure to grit roads and pavements.
Rosie told the Minister of the first hand experiences of West Lancashire residents and businesses during the recent cold snap. Elderly people trapped in their homes with no way to get to the shops. Hard working families losing pay because they couldn’t get to work; bus operators losing 60% of their revenue from being forced to cancel bus services.
Rosie showed how little Lancashire County Council care about people in telling the Minister, “Last year several older people slipped on the ice using the only pedestrian walkway into the Concourse Shopping Centre because it hadn’t been gritted. Lancashire County Council’s response was to tell me they weren’t prepared to grit the walkway because the grit would corrode the bridge. My constituents took that to mean that the council cared more about the bridge than about them.”
In her concluding remarks Rosie had a warning for County Council Chiefs: “This can’t go on and we need to step up to the plate and ensure peoples lives are not put at risk by Councils who hope the problem will simply melt away.”
In responding to Ms Cooper's comments the Minister had a sobering warning for highways authorities, such as Lancashire County Council, that they must be better prepared for winter conditions in future.
Mr Mole was clear that local authorities are responsible for making our highways safe even during severe winter conditions. The Minister confirmed that keeping pavements safe also falls within a local authority's duty.
Rosie remains sceptical about the desire of Lancashire County Council to seriously address the problem. She said: “Judging by the comments from the Cabinet Member for the Environment nothing will change either when it comes to gritting. He said that the county council would carry out another review to once again learn the lessons from this winter but then concluded by saying ‘I don’t think there’s any question of changing policy’”.