The Highland Council has thanked its winter maintenance crews and home care workers for their efforts in maintaining services during the worst weather conditions to affect the area for 30 years.
Councillor John Laing, Chairman of the Transport Environmental and Community Services, also paid tribute to members of the public, who have helped a neighbour or an older or vulnerable person during the prolonged spell of cold and snowy conditions by clearing a path, digging out a car, buying provisions or simply keeping in touch to check the neighbour is well and coping.
He said many snow clearing staff had worked 17 days continuously to tackle the disruption caused by a combination of heavy snow and sub-zero conditions, while many home care workers had gone beyond the call of duty to maintain services to older and vulnerable people by walking miles to get through to the homes of clients.
He said: “This is an extra-ordinary spell of weather – the worst since 1978. It is proving a real challenge for our communities. Within the resources available, the Council is doing everything it can to keep roads open, footpaths clear and to maintain services to the public. I wish to put on public record my sincere thanks to everyone who has played their part. Many have given up time they would normally have had off on holiday to spend with their families.
“In these difficult times, the public also have their part to play in helping themselves and their neighbours to maintain access to their homes, clearing footpaths and my thanks go those who have been out there with the shovels and doing their bit.
“Since the snows came on Sunday 20 December, priority for snow clearing and gritting has been given to Priority 1 and 2 roads, which provide access to shops, hospitals, and bus routes. On Monday, increasing attention was given to Priority 3 and 4 routes ie residential areas and rural areas. Special attention is given to providing access to vulnerable people and we will soon turn our attention to our schools, which reopen on Monday.”
Over the past three weeks, he said the Council had used 30,000 tonnes of salt – half the normal annual usage. The Council has sufficient supplies of salt to maintain the current level of gritting for more than a week. A supply of 3,000 tonnes of salt arrived at Inverness Harbour this morning and a similar supply is expected at the weekend.
He gave an assurance that the level of service being provided by the Council on snow clearing and gritting was the maximum it could be.
He said: “Every machine and every member of staff we have available is out there trying to keep the roads open and the footpaths accessible. The snow clearing crews have been supplemented by staff from other Services and we are grateful for this co-operation and team work.”
The budget for winter maintenance for 2009/10 is £4.9 million.
He said: “Winter maintenance is notoriously unpredictable. In 2006/7 we used only 29,000 tonnes of salt. Last year, we used 79,000 tonnes. This year we will undoubtedly use even more. We set a budget based on previous experience, but we always have provision within our budget to deliver the service that is needed to maintain vital services.”
He said the Council will make every effort to clear bins where there is safe access to properties. Out of 109,000 homes, only 2,000 have not received a refuse collection over the Festive period and the public can be assured that we will collect their bin just as soon as we possibly can.