West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has asked Transport Minister Sadiq Khan MP about his opinion regarding the lack of accountability shown by the Lancashire County Council for local gritting plans.
Rosie Cooper MP said: "My constituents want to know who audits the lack of performance by local authorities, many of which have a considerable number of executives who earn more than the Prime Minister. That obviously does not include the Health and Safety Executive, because I reported Lancashire County Council to the HSE last year for its blanket non-gritting of side roads and pavements. This year, the Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council has berated me for wanting all the bus routes gritted. In fact, he proudly told local radio listeners that he would not do that."
Transport Minister, Sadiq Khan MP responded: "I pay tribute to the Local Government Association for the leadership that it is trying to provide in giving the right guidance to local authorities. Unfortunately, however, it cannot make local authorities do the right thing. My Honourable Friend has given examples from her community of the council not providing the service it needs to provide. Councils such as hers are using central Government or Salt Cell as an excuse for not providing the right level of service. They should be prioritising roads that buses use, because that would allow people to catch buses and thus leave their homes. She and I need to ensure that we highlight the parts of the country in which councils have not provided the service that they should have done."
Mr Khan MP has highlighted the frustration that many MP's have expressed in having little influence in their local council's planning process.
Rosie Cooper MP later remarked: "I've received dozens of emails, letters and phone calls from frustrated constituents who were unable to leave their homes. They feared falling on the ice, not being able to get cars off their driveways and were left stranded because the buses stopped running due to the dangerous road conditions. In some areas, such as Ashurst, there were no buses for days on end.
"Ambulances were forced to bring their own grit in order to get to people without risking life and limb. Some Skelmersdale residents walked miles just to get to the Concourse when there were no buses running. On days when there was a bus, they still had to walk some distances to the new bus stops, as the buses couldn't get up the ramp to the Concourse.
"This is absolutely unacceptable in the 21st Century.
"We need a national debate about how Councils make their roads safe in severe weather conditions. We need to assess how their performance is measured because Council tax payers are far from satisfied. I am seeking to have a Parliamentary debate to voice my constituents' concerns that roads should be gritted - including ALL bus routes - and that there are substantial stockpiles of grit in every local authority. We need to secure some real measures to ensure this doesn't happen every time we have bad weather."
House of Commons oral answers debate on Severe Weather (Transport) is found at: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-01-11a.411.0&s=speaker:11667#g424.3