Hundreds of Northumberland council vehicles being replaced this year

A Northumberland County Council gritter in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman
A Northumberland County Council gritter in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

Northumberland County Council has had to hire six gritters after the delivery of new vehicles was delayed.

However, due to plans being put in place for this eventuality, the authority had already ended the lease on its older vehicles which has resulted in money being saved.

A report to councillors explained that following the order for six new 18-ton, 4×4 gritters, it was decided to return the older vehicles to the leasing companies in April, saving around £81,000 through the termination of contract hire charges and removing the requirement to refurbish them.

The supplier of the new gritters then told the council that it could no longer deliver them in mid October, due to ‘exceptionally high demand’, and that it would be late November to mid December instead.

This meant that six vehicles had to be hired for the start of the winter period, which has resulted in additional hire costs, ‘but still delivers a significant net saving of around £52,000 when compared to the option of refurbishing and extending the leases of the old vehicles, which also had an increased risk of unplanned breakdown due to their age/condition’.

The report, which went before last week’s communities and place committee meeting, explained that the delivery of the rest of the 2019-19 fleet replacement programme is on track.

Delivery of the programme has been ‘challenging’ due to the high number of vehicles being delivered in this financial year.

More than 30 per cent of the entire fleet of 670 vehicles were originally identified for replacement with 212 items on this year’s programme.

Service reviews and challenges have resulted in nine vehicles being removed, saving around £206,000, however, since April 2018, an additional 27 vehicles have been added at a cost of £1.1million.

This includes a new specialist paving machine for road resurfacing, costing £85,000, two new bin wagons for £332,000 and 12 ride-on mowers (£300k).

The report explains that ‘data from vehicle GPS trackers has been used to robustly challenge services over the need for replacement vehicles before new vehicles are ordered’.

Coun Ian Swithenbank said: “Bit by bit, staff are grinding out really useful savings by the use of new technology.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service