Plenty of cash available for road gritting, says Flintshire Council

Reporter:

Hayley Collins

MONEY is no object when it comes to gritting the county’s roads.

That was the message from Flintshire Council chiefs when members discussed reviewing the authority’s winter maintenance service policy.

Deputy leader and executive member for environment Cllr Tony Sharps said despite the harsh winter, money was never an issue and never will be.

He said: “There were no financial pressures put on the department whatsoever.

“It was a pity we didn’t have as much salt and grit as we had money. Money was never an issue and as long as I am here it never will be.”

The comments came at a meeting of the council’s environment overview and scrutiny committee after Cllr Patrick Heesom raised concerns over what “strain” the Arctic conditions had put on the budget.

But director of environment Carl Longland assured members the budget was balanced.

He said: “We are forecasting that we broke even with the winter maintenance budget so there’s no big financial strain in that sense.

“I can absolutely categorically say that whatever budget provision we have, if the weather conditions require us to go out and grit the roads, we will go out and grit the roads.

“The only limiting factor is the provision of salt. There is only one salt mine serving the whole of the UK.”

Mr Longland admitted that during the severe weather conditions before Christmas, the authority came “dangerously close” to running out of salt. During one period the gritters were out for 46 consecutive nights.

“We were having major concerns about supplies,” he said.

“Our supplier in Winsford was unable to make deliveries and we were having to make our own arrangements.

“We did end up having to bring material from abroad.”

Due to dwindling supplies and rocketing prices, the authority at times was spending £90 per tonne on salt – more than double the usual rate.

In total, the council spent close to £1million on winter maintenance, but thanks to a £721,000 Welsh Assembly grant, the authority’s salt barns are now fully stocked ahead of next winter.

Members requested that during the policy review, officers look at refilling salt bins more regularly, as well as gritting sheltered housing complexes, gritting car parks and estate roads and encouraging the public to held clear paths and pavements.

A report with the proposed changes will be presented to councillors in September.

See full story in the Leader

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