Plans to recruit a band of ‘Snow Angels’ to keep the roads ice free in a city suburb has sparked a political row.
Ward councilors in South Jesmond, Newcastle, are asking volunteers to grab a shovel and get gritting this winter in a bid to try and get around council cut backs to road services.
Snow Angels will be given protective equipment and a shovel at a meeting tonight at Newcastle Cricket Club in Osborne Road.
In the event of a snow forecast the team of volunteers will be asked to spread grit and clear snow on footpaths for free by Jesmond’s Labour councillors piloting the idea for the first time.
However, Anita Lower, Liberal Democrat leader of the opposition to Newcastle City Council said gritting roads should remain a job for council staff and money on setting up the project would have been better spent on paying road worker’s wages.
She said: “There’s a council responsibility here. You pay your council tax for services like gritting. It’s nice that people look out for their neighbours, but I really don’t think it’s practical to leave it up to residents. With the best will in the world people aren’t going to get up in -5 to grit the roads. It’s a risky business.
“This was always a job done by council staff and, at the bottom line, this is a council job.
“I would be concerned too about being responsible for the safety of neighbours.”
City council member for Communities, Coun Hazel Stephenson, said Snow Angels is in line with the authority’s co-operative council values and an additional service to keep the city moving and not a replacement of gritting services.
She said: “We have and will continue to grit key roads and pavements and see this pilot scheme as a way of reaching residential areas we would otherwise not be able to reach because of the enormity of the job.
“All volunteers are offered training to ensure that the snow that they clear does not become a hazard to others.
“Government cuts means that the council cannot do everything on its own. This scheme is a good example of an additional service that gives residents the choice to help out in their local communities and take pride in where they live.”
Mrs Lower said she would query with the council the cost of the shovels, room hire to hold the initial Snow Angels meeting and leafleting to houses in South Jesmond.