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Councils running out of grit as wintry weather continues

A national shortage of salt stocks is forcing councils across the UK to drastically scale back its gritting operations, leaving many major roads untreated.

The Local Government Association said that with council gritters continuing to operate on a twenty-four hour non-stop rota, a number of councils are now experiencing shortages of salt because, in some parts of the country, stocks are running low.

LGA environment board chairman Paul Bettison said: "Following temperatures in some parts of the country dropping to as low as -10C, council gritting staff needed to work flat out for the fourth day and night in a row to treat the roads and pavements. In some parts of the country the prolonged exceptionally cold weather has meant that more grit has been deposited on roads in the last four days than in the whole of last year’s winter.

"Council supplies of grit have been massively depleted after the cold snap and heavy snow that has hit much of the country. Where stocks are running low, councils will work with each other to make sure that everyone has access to enough salt to keep battling the icy and snowy conditions. If that fails to deal with any issue, then councils will talk to the Highways Agency to look for further supplies.

"There is growing concern salt supplies are drying up due to rationing. For example, Hertfordshire County Council has used 4,000 tonnes of salt since Sunday but its supplier is only able to provide 160 tonnes more per day. This will cause some local authorities to focus solely on A and B roads and bus routes rather than the whole network.”

Councils have been working round the clock to keep roads and pavements clear of snow for people across the areas hit by the largest snowfall in twenty years.

Each full gritting run costs around £17,000, using some 220 tonnes of salt and takes around three hours.

Examples include:

Greenwich council gritting teams have been out since 0730 on Sunday before the snow began to fall, and have been in continuous operation since to clear as many of the borough’s roads as possible. The council street sweepers have suspended day to day activity so all staff can focus on keeping roads and pavements clear and safe.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead primary routes were gritted twice yesterday and again at 5am this morning.

Merton Council staff gritted the roads yesterday before the heavy snowfall. Crews were also out until 4.30am and 7.30am this morning. Snow ploughs are being used where possible.

Newham council has deployed six gritting machines with snowploughs fitted to help keep the borough moving and is the first time the borough has had to use ploughs. They are putting down an average of 40 grammes of salt per metre - under normal adverse weather conditions it is less than ten grammes per metre. Roads are being treated on a priority basis, starting with major roads that carry more than 1,500 cars an hour at peak times. Priority is also given to locations where injuries are more likely to occur, like town centres, traffic interchanges, bus and rail stations, shopping centres and outside buildings for vulnerable residents such as old people's homes, day centres and doctors’ surgeries.

Kent County Council called a snow emergency at 7am this morning so all routine maintenance works were suspended and crews diverted to manually salt key pedestrian areas.

Staffordshire County Council’s highways teams are working round the clock to keep salt levels topped up. Some of the twenty tractor mounted snow blowers and 140 snow blades have also been in action.

Gloucestershire County Council have deployed 12 gritting lorries and are use approximately 80 tones of salt per run to cover 300 miles of roads.

Bournemouth County Council has sent out 15 teams to manually grit roads in order to ensure roads are clear.

Surrey County Council is currently tackling the adverse weather conditions with 42 snow ploughs out around the county, focussing on the A roads. Last night the council made three salting runs of the county's primary routes.

1,890 miles of Essex’s networks being treated by a team of 65 gritter lorries and snow ploughs with around 100 personnel working around the clock. The gritter service has treated the primary network six times in 24 hours and continues to grit as fast apossible to keep precautionary routes clear. Around 1500 tonnes of salt has been used so far with the roads being gritted before the snow fell to ensure it was at its maximum effectiveness.

North Tyneside has gritted 240 miles of its road network using more than 150 tonnes of salt. Gatehead has around 400 council workers clearing snow.

Harrow Council deposited a quarter of the annual amount of salt in deposits on the borough's roads in just 24 hours. Eight Harrow Council lorries laid 250 tonnes of salt across Harrowstarting from 3pm on Sunday. Harrow's gritting teams have now been making uninterrupted runs for 14 hours.

Westminster has worked overnight and has one gritting machine for every square mile of Westminster. So far it has used 300 tonnes of gritting salt.

"Other organisations that are affected by the snow appear to be using councils as a scapegoat for their own poor preparations for the weather. The claim that it is local authorities fault that they cannot run services needs to treated with a huge pinch of gritting salt," said Bettison.

“With the worst conditions hitting the country in almost two decades, councils are battling round the clock to not only grit the roads and the pavements, but to keep vulnerable older people safe and inform parents that schools are closed.

“Swathes of the country are being hit by up to six inches of snow and hundreds of council workers are gritting pavements and roads. But with snow continuing to fall staff are facing an uphill battle to try and make sure that roads and pavements are kept clear.”

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