North Yorkshire County Council looks set to reduce its precautionary winter salt spreading to minimum levels set out in national guidelines.
An officers’ report to leading members of the authority, which in recent years has faced calls to review its gritting policies amid claims that a lack of action has seen parts of the county suffer gridlock, reveals lowering the minimum salting spread rate to 8g per square metre could save the authority a further £75,000 during a “normal season”.
The proposed move follows the authority cutting the amount of salt it spread on the county’s 6,000 miles of roads last winter with the ambition of saving £195,000 of taxpayers money a year.
Under the Highways Act 1980, councils have a duty to ensure within reason that safe passage along roads are not endangered by snow or ice, while the Traffic Management Act 2004 requires authorities to do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the network effectively to keep traffic moving.
The Local Government Association says with the salt and grit mix costing up to £40 per tonne, this duty can weigh heavily on councils, particularly when there are long, cold winters.
National guidance states authorities must determine their own spread rates that are appropriate for use on their own networks.
The officers’ report states the further proposed cut follows the experience of last winter’s partially reduced spread rates, along with greater confidence in gritter accuracy, coupled with the recent £2.2m purchase by North Yorkshire Highways of 18 new gritters.
It states: “As no negative impacts were observed or detected, we now propose to reduce the spread rates further in line with the national guidance.
“Whilst any definite cost saving is impossible to predict as it will depend on the
prevailing weather conditions, it is expected that these reductions will save around £75k during a normal season.”
Councillor Stuart Parsons, leader of the authority’s Independent group, said residents “paid through the nose for the county council’s services”, so they should be able to expect some returns.
He questioned whether North Yorkshire’s geography would make it suitable for the national minimum salting levels.
Coun Parsons said: “It is fine if you are looking at some of the Home Counties that are basically flat to go down to the national minimum level, but when you’ve got hill after hill, bend after bend, mile after mile of winding roads with little to no treatment on them they are going to bring the whole of the rural economy to a grinding stop.
“The last people they seem concerned about are the residents, who they now call customers.”