County makes preparations for winter

A snow plough and gritter at work near Ashington during heavy snowfalls in February 2009.
A snow plough and gritter at work near Ashington during heavy snowfalls in February 2009.

The county council is trying to ensure it is prepared for the coming months following the severe winter weather in recent years.

Across the 11 depots in Northumberland, there are currently 18,500 tonnes of salt in stock with a further 19,500 tonnes due to be delivered by the end of the month.

This would easily cover the 22,000 tonnes used last year, or the 26,000 tonnes that is used in a typical winter.

In the harshest winters, 36,000 tonnes have been used.

The salt is bought through the North East Purchasing Organisation using the bulk-buying power of several North East Local Authorities to obtain optimum prices.

A report to Tuesday’s meeting of the county council’s economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee also detailed the arrangements for gritting vehicles and their drivers.

There are 33 gritting vehicles serviced and ready for use, with two being new gritters for the north area ‘where conditions are usually more extreme’.

The majority of gritter drivers are drawn from within the highway and neighbourhood services departments.

This year, for the first time, the council will be employing drivers external to the council on fixed-term contracts for the winter season.

This is to ensure that council drivers are able to have the necessary rest periods so that they can drive safely and are compliant with driving regulations.

As well as having the correct equipment in place, the county wants to ensure that there are good levels of communications with the public.

The report states: “One of the most important aspects of winter service is to provide clear information on the level of service provided by the county council and to give timely updates onchanging conditions and action being taken or proposed.

“The information should also include the ways in which the public can prepare and protect themselves from the weather and how communities can support each other.”

And this is the third key aspect of preparations for this winter – the report also explains that assistance from town and parish councils and voluntary groups is encouraged, with information about how to help on the county council website – www.northumberland.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=12280