AN outraged Newbury town councillor has launched a scathing attack on West Berkshire Council... over who should pay for grit bins in the town.
West Berkshire Council used to refill the 62 grit bins in and around Newbury – the 23 it owns and the 39 the town council owns – free of charge, but has decided to stop doing so as it looks to make savings of £17.5m this year.
The district council says it will remove its 23 bins unless the town council agrees to pay to refill them.
It is not the first time West Berkshire Council has cut funding to vital services in the town – it withdrew funding for the public toilets at the Wharf and ended its contribution to the Visitor Information Centre and 22 CCTV cameras.
It’s safe to say that Arthur Johnson (Lib Dem, Pyle Hill) wasn’t too impressed by the latest proposal.
At a Newbury Town Council community services meeting on Monday, the former mayor of Newbury fumed: “What a cheek.
“We have got to pay to have West Berkshire’s grit bins? I think that’s absolutely outrageous. Don’t you?”
He added: “Why do we have to maintain West Berkshire’s bins?
“It is just a cop out from them and it is putting more pressure on us, don’t you think so?
“I think West Berkshire Council have got a damn cheek, I really do.”
Mike Johnston (Con, Victoria), who sits on both Newbury Town Council and West Berkshire Council, tried to defuse the situation by smiling – but that didn’t go down well and only wound Mr Johnson up more.
Mr Johnson said: “You might smile, but it’s not very funny is it?”
To which Mr Johnston replied: “There’s no need to be so rude.”
The current cost of filling a grit bin is around £141 per bin, plus a contractor’s cost of £20.
This means the town council would need to pay £6,279 to fill its own bins and a further £3,703 to refill West Berkshire Council’s bins, bringing the total to just shy of £10,000.
However, Newbury Town Council leader Dave Goff (Con, Clay Hill), who is also a West Berkshire councillor, said: “It is entirely financed by West Berkshire Council and we owe it to our residents to continue to supply it.”
Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Northcroft) said: “This is a pretty important issue.
“It is quite shocking to hear that West Berkshire Council are thinking of removing the bins.
“We have had some quite bad winters and I think there is a big health and safety issue here if someone falls over and hurts themselves.”
James Fredrickson (Con, Victoria), who also sits on the district council, said: “I would love to see grit bins on every corner.
“It is deeply unpallatable but these are difficult decisions that have to be made by West Berkshire Council.”
But Mr Johnson hit back again, saying: “And it has put a lot of pressure on us but nobody considers that do they?”
Despite Mr Johnson’s outburst, the town council voted in favour of using the £10,000 previously put by to keep the Visitor Information Centre open to keep the grit bins.
Mr Johnson, predictably, voted against paying to refill West Berkshire Council’s grit bins.