We seem to be in for another heavy snow storm with 10 inches or so reported to be falling in London suburbs tonight and tomorrow. There is a list of grit bins on the Sutton website. Local resident Adrian Short has done a great job in mapping them on Google Maps. The Council website also has the latest news on school opening.
However, the list and map does highlight a significant gap in emergency planning. The Council lists 150 grit bins available for a population of over 180,000 residents. This means that there is, on average, only one grit bin for every 1200 residents. To add insult to injury, some areas have only one grit bin available to local residents whereas others have over thirty. The list on the council website demonstrates that the grit bin situation has not been reviewed for at least 7 years with one described as being outside Tesco on Sutton High Street, which was closed in 2003 to make way for Asda.
The recent cold spell has exposed Sutton Council’s weaknesses in winter road maintenance, causing outrage with local taxpayers after poor gritting efforts left many residents stranded in their own homes because roads and pavements turned into untackled ice rinks. Many residents who were willing to grit their own roads – out of necessity – were dismayed to find grit bins either empty or unavailable in their area.
Google Maps shows that access to gritting bins varies significantly from Ward to Ward. For example, the Carshalton South and Clockhouse Ward is well serviced with 33 gritting bins whereas the Wallington North, Wandle Valley and Nonsuch Wards languish with only one gritting bin each. Conservatives are now calling for an end to Sutton’s ‘post code lottery’ access to grit bins and for better preparation for icy road conditions in the future.
This is not the first time that the Liberal Democrat-run Council has provoked controversy over its winter highways policies. Last year the ruling Liberal Democrats slashed the winter highways maintenance budget by £20,000 in March only to later spend £16,000 on a state-of-the-art air conditioning system for the Council Leader’s Office in July.
The past month has shown how woefully ill-prepared Sutton Council is for icy and snowy conditions. I don’t blame our hardworking gritting teams, I blame the political leadership of the Liberal Democrats for short-sighted cuts to the highways budget.