Fife ploughs more cash into winter services

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AN ADDITIONAL £343,000 has been committed to Fife Council’s budget for delivering its winter service this year – taking the total for 2011-12 to around £3.3 million.

A review of the authority’s winter gritting and snow clearing policy, following the most severe winter weather in more than 50 years, was presented last week to the enterprise, environment and transportation committee.

The report said many learning points had been gained from the last two years’ atrocious conditions.

And despite the difficulties, councillors were told by transportation and environmental services head Dr Bob McLellan: “At no time last winter did we get caught on the hop.”

In his report, he added: “We aim to improve the winter service this year by getting into residential streets at the same time as the priority routes.

“We’ve purchased additional plant giving us a fleet of 31 gritters.These cover 23 primary gritting routes, which equates to 59 per cent of the Fife road network. This is against a Scottish average of 42 per cent. Additional resources from our environmental operations and parks and countryside give us access to smaller plant and tractors, enabling us to tackle residential streets and footpaths more quickly.”

Feedback from last winter showed the region’s secondary routes had suffered unduly, mainly because of the introduction of salt conservation practices following national salt shortages and subsequent guidance issued by the Scottish Salt Group.

Fife is maximising its salt holding at the start of this winter, with 40,000 tonnes, to ensure resilience against the most severe weather.

Dr McLellan added: “Last year, we had access to 1000 people during the peak periods of severe weather at a cost of £150,000 per day. We also very much welcomed the self-help of Fife’s residents.

“The regular restocking of grit bins will continue this year and we have also ordered 3000 one-ton winter sacks for use at schools and care facilities. Communications have been improved to manage public expectations when the most severe conditions arise. We will continue to build on this in the coming winter and encourage more engagement with the local communities to ensure we deliver a robust service.”