Council skating on thin ice at first sign of winter in West Dunbartonshire
Councillors McColl and McNair posing for pictures with the winter roads team, but complaints are pouring in about the state of the roads and pavements.
By Bill Heaney
Residents gritted their teeth this week when West Dunbartonshire Council failed to meet its promise to keep them safe in snow and icy conditions this winter.
According to reports, complaints poured into the local authority from residents who claimed they had witnessed cars skidding on roads and people falling on ice which had formed on un-gritted pavements.
One insider at Vale of Leven Hospital said around 70 people had been treated for injuries sustained as a result of falls, and Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said it appeared that not enough was being done by West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute councils to make people safe.
Ms Baillie, pictured left, said: “I have heard widespread reports that the paths and roads around Dumbarton, Alexandria, Helensburgh and Lomond were really treacherous on Tuesday morning with lots of black ice. I understand that this led to the Vale of Leven hospital being jam packed with patients who had fallen on the ice and this resulted in long waits for treatment.
“While I understand that both Argyll and Bute Council and West Dunbartonshire Council have implemented their winter plans and gritted routes across the area, it is clear that the activity undertaken was insufficient for the recent poor weather.”
In Bonhill, the braes there were said to be “like glass” witnesses said children and older people were sliding and falling on the icy pavements.
At the new joint school campus in Balloch, parents dropped off their children on the main road at Jamestown because the car park had been closed due to ice forming there overnight.
There were also claims that the new Bellsmyre campus was “like an ice rink” and that the nursery there was also affected.
Our Lady and St Patrick’s HS car park was said to be covered in ice; a boy, who fell on ice outside St Peter’s Primary, hurt his back.
And an elderly woman fell in Brucehill and children slithered and slid on their morning walk to school there.
Complaints were made about the state of the roads and footpaths in Haldane, and it was claimed that elderly people were trapped in their homes there, frightened to go out in the hazardous underfoot conditions.
SNP council leader Jonathan McColl, pictured right, was not available for comment and nor was Balloch Conservative Councillor Sally Page, who like Cllr McColl, represents the Lomond Ward.
They had plenty to say recently when it was announced that the council had more than 4100 tonnes of rock salt available to help keep people safe and traffic moving on roads this winter.
If the workforce was not alerted in time to deal with the first ice of winter, then the lingering controversies over the money their senior staff receive for keeping an eye on the thermometer will be raised again.
They are meant to be “semper vigilo” and to raise the alert when the weather is bad enough for the gritters to be called out.
The Council will not comment however on whether the arrangements they said they would put in place actually worked and to what extent, although the complaints make it obvious that (for everyone) they did not.
Their earlier statement was that staff “are already working behind the scenes to ensure our highways and pathways remain safe during freezing conditions”.
They added: “The Roads team’s fleet of nine gritters will regularly treat every primary route, and secondary routes during longer periods of adverse weather.”
They have been on 24-hour standby since October 22 – “reacting when temperatures dip below freezing or if there is a risk of ice”.
The statement, which was accompanied by Cllr McColl and his SNP colleague Marie McNair, pictured left, posing for photographs shovelling road salt at the depot on the Broadmeadow industrial estate, said that when severe weather conditions are forecast, the Council grits over 60 per cent of West Dunbartonshire’s public road network.
It added: “The Greenspace team work to ensure footpaths near schools, care homes, hospitals and other priority routes are kept clear.
“West Dunbartonshire has more than 450 roadside grit bins across the area, meaning that generally no home is more than 300 metres from a supply should it become necessary.
“This level of provision is one of the highest per heads of population in Scotland.”
It is clear today however that for many residents the winter programme didn’t meet their needs and at least some of the money spent paying for road teams to be on standby may have been wasted.
The Council were lambasted on social media – Sharon Kenney said: “Disgrace! My boy fell hurting his back this morning outside St. Peter’s primary in Bellsmyre.
“I thought the council would have been better prepared given the weather forecast especially around schools.”
Michelle Anderson said: “I’m sure everyone will be complaining, but that was ridiculous this morning trying to get to Bellsmyre nursery with a three-year-old, falling everywhere terrified and me trying to carry a four months old baby in a car seat. Thankfully there were so many lovely parents who helped us!”
John-Paul Johnstone said: “Need to get the pavements and road sorted in Brucehill, a wee old woman fell about 20 minutes ago and my kids fell on way to school this morning.”
Emma Mackinnon said: “Roads are absolutely terrible, seen three crashes already on the way to school, one being outside the school, paths are horrendous also.”
This was not what the Council wanted to hear since Cllr Iain McLaren, Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, said earlier: “As we saw last year, the weather can turn [bad] very quickly, so I hope residents are reassured to hear of the planning and preparation that has gone into dealing with it.
“The grit stocks have been replenished, the bins in our communities have been filled up and the staff and equipment are ready to deal with another harsh winter.”
Cllr Iain McLaren, Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, was confident that the new arrangements would not fall at the first hurdle.
He was upbeat about the whole thing when he said: “As we saw last year, the weather can turn [bad] very quickly, so I hope residents are reassured to hear of the planning and preparation that has gone into dealing with it. The grit stocks have been replenished, the bins in our communities have been filled up and the staff and equipment are ready to deal with another harsh winter.”
Cllr Marie McNair, Vice Convener of Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development, added: “We know there may be some disruptions due to ice and snow but people can be assured that we’ll be doing all we can to ensure we keep West Dunbartonshire moving whatever the weather. Residents have told us they are willing to help with gritting areas in their community, and the increase in number of the salt bins should help with this. I’d encourage them to think of neighbours who might need assistance when the colder weather hits.”
Residents can obtain small quantities of rock salt for private use from the Council’s Road Depots located at Elm Road, Dumbarton, or Stanford Street, Clydebank.
A map detailing gritting routes and locations of grit bins is available on the Council website.