Highland Council gives assurance that crews are at the ready despite potential overspend of winter budget
With wintry weather forecast the Chair of The Highland Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee has reassured communities and the public that roads and pavements will continue to be treated despite a potential £2m overspend being predicted in the Council’s winter budget.
The Highland Council is the largest local authority area in the UK with nearly 7,000km of local road network and nearly 2,000 km of footpaths, all of which have been badly affected over recent weeks.
This winter has proved particularly challenging for the council and the potential over spend has been attributed to the constantly changing weather conditions. Over the last few months there has been repeated heavy falls of snow across all areas, persistent prolonged periods of icy conditions followed by rising temperatures and heavy rainfall, then returning to sudden drops in temperatures and further snowfall.
The Highland Council administration recognises that roads are a high priority for communities in Highland. This was reflected in their 2017/18 budget which protected spending for roads maintenance, including providing services over the winter months. Now faced with a potential £2m overspend Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of the EDI Committee, has written to the Minister for Transport and Islands requesting financial support following an offer of assistance for local authorities affected by the extreme winter weather.
Councillor Henderson said: “The Highland Council, in common with most other areas, has been experiencing probably the most severe winter weather conditions for some years which have caused extremely challenging driving conditions. Our £5 million winter maintenance budget which includes the cost of spreading is already spent and, should the winter weather continue, we are looking at an over spend in the order of £2m. I have written to the Minister to stress the pressure we are under and request more information on how we can take him up on his offer of additional support.”
He added: “In the meantime the most important thing is to make it clear that despite the budget pressure we will continue to provide a full winter service and there will be no changes to the current policy for treating our roads.
“Our crews across all areas of the Highlands have worked really hard over the last two months keeping our road network open and safe so I would like to thank them for their incredible efforts under particularly challenging conditions.
“We have plenty of salt in stock with vehicles and teams of staff in place to continue providing a full service until winter ends and the weather starts to improve.”
At today's meeting of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee members requested that a review of the Council's Winter Maintenance service and policy be carried out as soon as possible following the Council's budget setting meeting.