Over 200 roads will be taken off Cheshire East Council's gritting route from October.
The move comes after a controversial policy was approved to help secure future Government funding.
Cheshire East Council’s cabinet signed off the authority’s new well-managed highway infrastructure on Tuesday, including changes to gritting routes resulting in four per cent fewer roads being treated.
There are 247 roads that will be taken off the council’s gritting route having failed to score enough points to qualify for gritting under new guidelines set by Government.
But cabinet members were urged to reconsider the scheme over concerns the public were not aware of the new policy’s implications.
Amanda Edwards is headteacher at Whirley Primary School, in Whirley Road, Macclesfield, which is to be taken off the council’s gritting route.
She told cabinet: “I was only told about this last week – there has been absolutely no consultation with the school at all.
“Whirley Road is a mile long and the school is at the top of a hill. Last year we had to close the school for two days because my staff couldn’t get to school, and that was with grit.”
Stacey Rowley, representing Bridgemere Primary School and Calveley Primary Academy, also spoke out about roads close to those south Cheshire schools being taken off the route.
Roads across Cheshire East were given a risk assessment score, with roads scoring less than 100 axed from the council’s gritting route – totalling 230km.
However, some roads scoring more than 100 have been added to the route that had previously been untreated by highways officers in cold weather – totalling 103km.
Councillor Rob Vernon, Labour member for Broken Cross and Upton, told cabinet that more than 500 residents had signed a petition calling for a rethink on taking Whirley Road out of the gritting route in just three days.
He added: “I understand that as a council we are having one hand tied behind our backs by funding cuts from Government – I appreciate that.
“But none of us – whether we are red, blue, yellow or no party at all – came into local politics to put the safety of children in our community at risk.”
CEC began work on its well-managed highway infrastructure back in 2018, with public consultation on the wider scheme taking place that summer.
Councillor Don Stockton, Conservative member for Lacey Green, was the cabinet member responsible for the policy before last May’s local elections.
He told cabinet that he was ‘amazed’ he had to question the policy – and was concerned at how the scoring system had worked, suggesting roads being removed from the gritting route in his ward are ‘heavily used’.
Councillor Stockton said: “When you were in opposition, I am sure you would have given me a really hard time if these proposals had been put by our group.
“We’re now in the position we’re you’ve gone through, you’ve done your matrix and you’ve got your numbers – and goodness knows how some of them come out at nought by the way, does that mean the road doesn’t get used at all, or no one is going to slip on it?”
Councillor Rachel Bailey, Conservative member for Audlem and CEC’s leader at the time the work began, added: “It saddens me to hear parish councillors, residents and heads of school say, ‘why have we not been told here?’
“So I have to say, why is there a rush? Why can’t we pause?”
But independent Councillor Craig Browne, CEC’s deputy leader, confirmed that the policy had been considered by a council scrutiny committee on four occasions before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
And he insisted the council is following the standards being set by the Department for Transport (DfT), which provides funding to the authority based on whether it is following the code.
Councillor Browne said: “Leadership sometimes involves making difficult decisions and I don’t think there’s any doubt that that is what the proposal is.
“Over the last five years, the DfT has provided a grant to us of £12 million per year – £2 million of that is incentivised, based on us being able to demonstrate that we are complying with the criteria.
“A recent assessment by our strategic highways team has concluded that a figure of £17 million a year is needed just to maintain the network at its current level, otherwise all we are doing is managing decline.”
Cabinet members unanimously approved the policy, but Councillor Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, raised concerns about the consultation that took place.
He added: “I think it has improved recently, but clearly we need to learn some more lessons from what happened in 2018, and I think we could review that consultation and learn lessons from it.”
The well-managed highway infrastructure policy will also see CEC investigate potholes at a shallower depth than before – at 40mm rather than 50mm – while other road, footpath and cycleway defects will also be inspected earlier than before.