The Conservative politician responsible for North Yorkshire’s highways who is also challenging to become the area’s first elected mayor has hailed residents’ “heroic efforts” to rescue him after his election battlebus got stuck on an apparently ungritted snow-covered road.
It was part of his ongoing 1,000-stop tour of the county ahead of the May election, when the van he calls Peggy left the road this morning (February 8).
As the North Yorkshire Council executive member for highways, Cllr Duncan oversees the county’s gritting crews and a £7 million budget to deliver what he describes as “one of the UK’s most comprehensive winter programmes”.
The authority’s fleet includes about 80 vehicles and is supported by about 100 farming contractors, who are deployed to keep the roads clear during more challenging conditions.
However, it is understood the site where Cllr Duncan’s vehicle left the road is known locally for not being gritted as it is where two of the council’s highways branches, Hambleton and Harrogate, meet and their gritting lorries turn around.
Speaking after being “pulled to safety” by Lofthouse residents Stephen Ramsden and Ashley Gatecliffe, Cllr Duncan said the road did not look like it had been gritted before his van got stuck in mud.
After seeing his plight, villagers asked Cllr Duncan to take up their case to ensure gritting is more comprehensive in the area.
Cllr Duncan said:
“Peggy became briefly stuck in the mud between Lofthouse and Fearby during today’s snowy weather.
“Suffering nothing but a bruise, Peggy is back on the road and my tour of the county continues as scheduled.
“Despite Peggy’s unplanned rest, my visit to Lofthouse and the wider Nidderdale area was immensely useful. I was able to speak to residents personally and directly about their concerns.”
Mr Gatecliffe said he appreciated Cllr Duncan taking the time to venture up here to understand the issues being faced by residents first hand.
“This is a treacherous road and we appeciate Keane’s help to get it gritted. This is the proactive and visible representation we want to see from our new mayor.”
However, opposition councillors pointed towards financial cuts by the government to North Yorkshire over the last 13 years, leaving resources limited and the gritting service “prioritised”.
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Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Bryn Griffiths said:
“Keane will be very aware of the priority schedule.
“If he can’t follow his own highways advice and drive responsibly, what does that say about his competence to be an effective mayor?”
Cllr Steve Mason, a Liberal Democrat who represents Amotherby and Ampleforth, said added there was “a certain irony” that the executive lead councillor for gritting had come off an ungritted North Yorkshire road.
“Perhaps more focus on his paid role to ensure our roads run smoothly at this time would have been prudent.”