THE headteacher of a primary school has spoken of her anger at having to close her school today, saying council cutbacks to gritting routes have caused chaos.

Christine Maxwell is the headteacher at Combe St Nicholas Primary School, and says the village has become treacherous to drive to and from with sheet ice on many of the roads.

It is just two weeks since a number of school headteachers slammed the Somerset County Council's gritting plans in the News.

"It is not an easy decision to close a school," Mrs Maxwell said. "I live in Merriott 15 miles away and I although I tried to get in it proved impossible due to the lack of gritting.

"I was in second gear the whole team and my heart is still racing," she said.

"Some of my staff and the pupils made it in but they are now trapped and cannot get back, and I understand there have been several accidents on the roads this morning - all minor but it is not worth the risk."

Mrs Maxwell said she believes the closure is a direct impact of Somerset County Council making cuts to its gritting routes in a bid to balance its budget.

"Myself and the headteacher of Neroche Primary School, Connell Boyle, wrote to Somerset County Council warning them that there would be negative consequences if these cuts went ahead.

"It is frustrating to close the school and have my employees trapped because this was preventable."

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Another Combe St Nicholas resident, Clair Coulson, has been in touch this morning, saying: "Thanks to the council not gritting roads in and around the villages we have had three car crashes in Combe St Nicholas.

"God forbid if someone needs an ambulance because they haven’t got a chance in hell of getting to them."

When the cuts to the gritting routes were announced, Cllr John Woodman, cabinet member for Highways at Somerset County Council said: "We have to live within our means with greatly reduced funding and that means we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in order to balance our budget.

"The one affecting our winter service was certainly one of the toughest. We’d rather not be in this position, but we have had to look closely at all spending to see where savings can be found.

"I’d urge road users to check our winter service information on the website which includes the routes which will be gritted in the event of ice and snow together with winter driving advice."

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “The decision to change the policy for winter gritting was taken in response to the huge financial pressures we are facing due to falling funding from Government combined with rising costs and demand for services.

"This was not taken lightly and a number of factors were considered, including the potential impacts on schools.

"The winter service is reviewed each spring and any comments received will be considered as part of this."