WALTHAM Forest Council has been criticised for failing to prepare adequately for heavy snowfall, despite a severe weather warning.

Heavy snowfall during rush hour on Monday led to travel chaos, with many cars sliding off the road and people slipping on icy pavements.

Conservative group leader, Cllr Matt Davis, said he was caught in the traffic “shambles” and claims the council did not act quickly enough despite prior warnings.

He said: “They need to explain why they did not pre-empt the weather by sending the gritters out before rush hour. Sending them out when the traffic was already in chaos was too little too late.

“To add insult to injury if the public wanted to grit the roads themselves they would find most grit boxes in the borough empty. We have a year to be prepared for winter so why has the council failed so totally to take basic, common sense, precautions to safeguard our residents?”

Labour councillor Cllr Saima Mahmud, said: “I am absolutely appalled by the lack of gritting of the roads and pavements. I was promised that lessons would be learned from last year's events and this year we would be more prepared to deal with the ice and snow.”

Russell Hurley, 31, of Warren Road, Chingford, said he witnessed several cars coming off the road in King's Head Hill on his way home from work, a double-decker bus sliding across the road and an elderly woman lying in the snow with a broken arm after slipping on the pavement.

He said: “She had been lying there for 45 minutes and an ambulance hadn't arrived, so I went to the police and fire stations. This should not happen in a civilised country.

"There was absolute chaos, cars were slipping and sliding all over the place. I blame the council for not gritting the roads properly."

A spokeswoman for East of England Ambulance Service said they received reports of a woman with an injured arm after falling in Kings Head Hill at 7.45pm, but it was not classed as a priority because it was not considered life-threatening.

A council spokesman said its six gritters were out in the morning, prioritising hospitals, fire stations, bus garages and stations, then hilly routes, main traffic routes and finally, secondary routes and minor roads.

Waltham Forest Council's cabinet member for environment, Cllr Bob Belam, said: "Following exceptional levels of snow during a short period of time, our staff worked round the clock on Monday to minimise the disruption."