The leader of a disability group is demanding action to allow people to use Wharfedale’s pavements safely during icy weather.

Town councillor Neville Birch, who is registered blind and chairs Otley Disability Advisory Group (ODAG), says he has been virtually housebound because he has not wanted to risk walking on unsafe paths during the recent cold snap.

And he fears many other vulnerable people, especially those without their own cars, have suffered the same problem rather than risk suffering a serious injury on the icy, untreated paths near their homes.

Coun Birch believes pedestrians are being treated as “second-class citizens” when it comes to safety and is urging Leeds City Council to act.

The call comes as St James’s Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary both confirmed that icy conditions had led to “significant” increases in the numbers of people their A&E departments have been treating for fractures and sprains.

Coun Birch said: “I am disgusted at the state of our pavements and footpaths and really think something ought to be done about it. Some of them have been like skating rinks and you daren’t even try to go out on them.

“We seem quick enough to grit the roads to make sure the motorists can get on with things and get where they need to, but what about pedestrians?

“If you don’t have a car and you’re unsteady on your feet or, like myself, have trouble seeing it means you are taking your life in your hands by going outside your house onto these paths.

“And I would be very interested to know just how many people have hurt themselves by falling on the ice or snow, on untreated pavements, over the past week or two.

“I suspect it will be a lot and every time that happens it, of course, ends up costing us all money as they have to be seen by health specialists and receive treatment and so on.

“That could all be avoided if something was done to treat our paths the way they treat our roads.”

Town and ward councillor Graham Kirkland (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) said snowy weather left the city council facing a huge challenge with limited resources.

He said: “I have recently been promised action in Wellcroft in Otley for both road and footpaths. This is an estate road that is used as a rat run and therefore gets more dangerous ice than most roads, and rarely any salt.

“The council’s primary priorities are main roads and primary routes, which take thousands of vehicles per hour. In heavy or repeated snow this may mean two or three applications in a day covering 1,000 miles plus. Even though it is done by sophis-ticated machines, it is time consuming.

“When the snow stops and the primary targets are satisfactory they move on to secondary routes and after that on to side, estate and cul-de-sacs. The cost is in workers’ time and salting the footpaths is labour intensive and slow.

“The cost has to be borne out of this year’s council tax and extra money for extra salting has to come from cuts elsewhere, now. I am all for more salting, local residents deserve and expect it.

“But I am waiting for Coun Birch to tell me where he proposes to finance this.”

A council spokesman said: “Our priority is to keep Leeds moving safely and we prepare well in advance for wintry periods like these.

“Last year’s overhaul of our fleet of gritters has ensured a minimum of 30 are always in operation when needed, tackling nearly 900 miles of primary roads as well as secondary routes and heavily-used foot-ways across the city.

“We endeavour to keep shopping areas across the city gritted and are working to keep the city’s 940 grit bins stocked with salt to help keep local pavements clear. Our advice would be to always wear sensible, sturdy shoes and to take care on pavements as they may be untreated and slippery, and only venture out when really necessary.”

She added that the council also provided 46 salt bins, for the public to use on paths and roads that the authority is unable to treat, across the Otley and Yeadon ward.