URGENT TALKS are being held in an attempt to stop Cirencester’s pavements becoming ice rinks during the next fall of snow.

The Standard has received complaints from readers that nothing was done to clear foopaths in the town during the recent extreme weather in December, and many people fell as a result.

Now, Cirencester Town Council officials are looking at ways of changing their insurance policies so council staff are covered for the clearing work.

"I saw dozens of people falling over on untreated pavements and roads. Surely in 2010 the Council can do more?" said Andrew Parffrey who runs a bistro in the town centre.

"Black Jack Street was a skating rink - no gritters - no ploughs, no people clearing pavements.

"I rang the council to complain on four occasions with the promise of a call back - but nothing".

Student Joe Harris said: "On Christmas Eve I spent the entire afternoon removing ice from the Silver Street pavements where the ice was so severe that I counted six people slipped while I was working. I then gritted the pavements along the street.

"I took a walk around town and it was the same story, no treatment anywhere. Why hasn’t the council made any attempt to treat the pavements?"

Councillor Deryck Nash, chairman of Cirencester Town Council’s Project Board, and also a Cotswold District Councillor, said pavements formed part of the highway, and keeping the highways clear was the job of Gloucestershire county council.

A county council spokeswoman says it did not have the staff or the grit to clear pavements. In other towns and rural areas, local council staff just "got on and did the job". It appeared that Cirencester Town Council wanted assurances on insurance.

"I sympathise with people who have fallen down, or had an accident and hurt themselves, but it is not the town council’s responsibility", said Cllr Nash.

But he added: "There is a willingness to get there. We are pressing on and working hard for a solution.

Talks are due to be held between the town council and Gloucestershire county council’s highways staff on Tuesday 25 January to secure a final agreement.

The town council employs 12-15 ground staff to look after parks and open spaces, but they cannot work during snow and ice.

The town had wanted to second them to the county to help clear highways, but the county council insurance would not cover them.

Now it is likely the town council would have to pay a higher insurance premium, and it was likely that cost would be passed on to the council taxpayer.

Chris Franklin, Gloucestershire Highways Manager, said: "We are going to look at how the two authorities can share resources during winter operations and this may include town council staff helping us clear pavements and roads of snow and ice.

"Similar arrangements are already in place with other town and parish councils across the county and works very well."