How appropriate that just as we have the first cold snap of the winter period the City Council proposes to slash the number of roads that are gritted by nearly half, to save £100,000 per year. At a meeting on Wednesday, finance officers responded to councillors concerns with the well rehearsed line, “We are going to have to make some tough choices this year!”.
To City Council officers these are just costings; lines on a budget sheet. Councillors have to make the tough decisions on the budget ““ we will be the ones held to account by the public while they carry on sitting in their cosy offices picking up their fat pay cheques.
Meanwhile, the biggest losers will be the public, footing the bill.
Ross Irving, said:
“Protect public services from the need to cut the budget due to the recession.”
Well what are the consequences of cutting the gritting budget in half ““ reducing the coverage of roads from 46% down to 25%?
In pure logistical terms the cut will mean all bus routes off the main roads will not be treated, according to a senior officer with responsibility for responsive highways maintenance. It will also mean some main road in Stoke-on-Trent (A and B roads) will also not be gritted. Not side streets but the main arteries of the City.
For Stoke-on-Trent as a whole it will mean no buses on estates, stranding workers, school children and pensioners in their own homes. If we have a prolonged cold snap this could be very serious particularly for pensioners.
It will mean in severe weather, gridlock like we have never seen it before, untreated main roads, increased likelihood of accidents with potential fatal results.
What cost then to the City to save £100,000 per year. Wages lost to low paid staff unable to get into work. Business lost through lack of customers and missed deliveries. These are just some results and I am sure there are many, many more.
A simple, innocent looking single line in a budget cutting report. A torrent of negative consequences.
Just one more reason why every single proposed cut needs to be put under the spotlight and thoroughly scrutinised ““ not just given a tick with the stroke of a pen and a pat on the back.