The Council is making some rapid changes to this year’s plans for winter gritting to respond to concerns about the new pilot policy.
There were three things that led the Council to review the winter gritting policy (that’s the rules that set out which roads are going to be gritted, and how frequently)
- There was new national guidance issued earlier this year which provides criteria for all local authorities, so that they provide a service based upon fairness and clear principles. Previously, the Council’s gritting programme was based upon custom and practice with no clear rules for the selection of routes;
- The previous policy was costing a lot more than had been allowed for in the budget – and the costs are going up, so savings were having to be made on other parts of the highway maintenance budget to cover the difference – this at a time when Government cuts have forced the council to find savings of over £100 million since 2010; and
- The previous contract the council had with Amey has come to an end, so winter gritting is now being done by a mix of in-house teams and smaller private contractors.
The new policy had been looked at by both council officers and councillors from all parties, but seeing something written down is not the same as putting into practice. That’s why it was only introduced as a pilot this year.
Some parts of it are working really well. The priority routes – the busiest roads, main bus routes and roads which give access to hospitals, emergency services and community facilities such as schools and shopping centres – are being gritted very quickly.
But as it soon as it became clear that there were problems in some areas with some urban and rural roads which were not being gritted, the Council agreed to suspend that part of the policy and restore secondary gritting to them.
It’s not possible to restore gritting for every road immediately, as the Council needs to obtain some new gritters for the in-house team. These should be in place very shortly. In addition, the Council also has 200 more grit bins on order and these will be here very shortly.