Plans put in place to cope with big freeze

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“We’re expecting the worst, but still hoping for the best.”

That’s the message being given by Fife Council to residents this winter as another cold snap looms around the corner.

Members of the Levenmouth area committee were updated on the council’s efforts to improve on last year’s performance, when the Kingdom was caught cold by a prolonged snow fall, at their monthly meeting in Carberry House, Leven, on Wednesday.

Last year’s heavy winter snow-fall resulted in the council’s salt supplies ultimately dwindling, forcing services and schools to keep their doors closed.

In a report presented to councillors, prepared by the authority’s head of transportation and environmental services, Dr Bob McLellan described how he hoped the council’s communication, work with contractors, level of treatment on carriageways, ability to keep schools open and the provision of salt heaps would be improved considerably this year.

Councillor Andrew Rodger, though, issued a grim warning to his fellow members that the focus would be on Fife to make sure the region got it right this time.

“This council is going to be watched like hawks by the rest of the country this year,” said Cllr Rodger.

“I know that council officers and staff worked hard to do what they could, but the fact is that people expect their roads to be kept going.

“The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

“If we have a winter like last year, and we keep the roads going, then we will have been successful.

“All we need to do is support each other and push that wee bit harder.”

Around 40,000 tonnes of salt are already being stocked across Fife, including 6000 tonnes in Methil, which the council reckons should match the severe weather of the past two years.

A budget of £3.29 million has been set aside for this season – £0.34m more than last year – which actually ended up costing the council £7.3 million.

The meeting heard that council officers were already in discussions with the Met Office about when it expects the most severe weather to arrive – with the advice being that it looks most likely to be towards the very end of December and into January.

New ploughs and gritting machinery have also been bought by the local authority throughout the year.

Dr McLellan said: “The council is committed to delivering an effective and responsive winter service and many learning points have been gained from the experience of dealing with the severe weather events over the last two successive years.

“Public expectations have risen and policy making has responded accordingly with a number of policy enhancements within the revised winter policy statement.”

An information and guidance pamphlet has been produced by the council which will outline its policies on road treatment and its severe weather preparation.

Councillor Tom Adams said he hoped the council was ready and prepared for the challenge this winter.

He said: “One thing I spoke about time and time again last year was inter-departmental communication.

“More than once I saw a gritter leaving to go around the roads and then a road sweeper at the back of it which was sweeping all the grit away.

“We need departments to communicate on things like that because we were a complete laughing stock.”

Councillor Marilyn Whitehead highlighted the particular difficulty Fife had with the amount of rural and lightly used routes spread across the Kingdom.

Cllr Whitehead also urged people to act now to ensure their cars were ready for any big freeze.

She said: “People must check to make sure their tyres are suitable for the winter - it can make a huge difference.”

For further information and advice visit fifedirect.org.uk/winter.