The sun may be shining now, but Northamptonshire residents could be facing a bleak winter as the cash-strapped county council is planning to drastically reduce its winter gritting service.
Six gritters are being retired from its vehicle fleet, 500 salt bins are under threat and the gritting road network will be reduced by almost a quarter under cost-saving measures being made by the authority as it tries to reduce its spending by £35m this year.
The reductions will save the authority £475,000 and leave a budget of £2.37m to make sure Northamptonshire’s roads are safe during the wintry weather.
Council officer Debbie Taylor-Bond told members of the environment, development and transport scrutiny committee that the authority had a ‘statutory duty to provide a winter service but that savings had to be made’.
Last winter the council gritted 1,954km of the county’s 4,500km network.
This year it will reduce the road network by 21 per cent and grit just 1,534km of road.
On an average winter (between October 15 and April 15) the council sends out the gritting fleet 65 times.
Roads are treated overnight when there is a forecast temperature of 0.5 degrees.
All roads removed from the overnight network will transfer to the ‘adverse network’ which is pre-treated in daytime hours in advance of forecasted snow.
The winter gritting fleet will also be reduced from 26 to 19 vehicles and the salt level stock for the county will fall by 2,000 tonnes to 9,500 tonnes.
A survey of all of the 1,973 salt bins in the county has revealed that 500 are damaged and may be removed as they do not ‘meet the current criteria’.
Parish councils and community groups will be asked to take over the maintenance and topping up of the ‘at risk’ salt bins in the areas affected.
Labour councillor Winston Strachan criticised the winter service cuts.
He said: “The reasons why we have the grit bins in these areas is because they are useful.
“The damaged bins should be repaired and replenished not just taken away.
“The people in these areas pay their rates the same as everybody else.”
All county councillors will have a chance at tomorrow’s (June 21) full council meeting to view a map of the proposed gritting network and can make comments.
The authority carried out a consultation last autumn about the proposed reductions.
NCC is also planning to stop using an ‘expensive’ clear liquid de-icer on its priority footpaths and instead will revert to using a mix of sand and salt.
The final decision on whether to make the service cuts will be made by the ruling conservative cabinet in September.
Four of the ten members of the newly elected scrutiny committee did not attend the meeting.
Cllr Malcolm Waters and Cllr Heather Smith were on holiday and Cllr Arthur McCutcheon and Cllr Scott Edwards did not show up.
Cllr Adil Sadygov left an hour into the three-hour meeting.