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Bradford bill tripled in worst winter for 18 years
The coldest winter for years has left Bradford Council with a near £1 million gritting bill, forcing it to dip into contingency funds.
The heaviest snowfalls for 18 years this month were the major reason for the Council spending £900,000 on rock salt so far this winter – nearly three times what was budgeted.
And Council chiefs have admitted that the cost of keeping the roads open could climb higher when overtime for the gritter drivers is taken into account.
Between April 2008 and now, the Council has bought 20,000 tonnes of salt.
Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, Bradford Council’s executive member for environment and culture, said: “When the bad weather comes, we have no choice but to supply the rock salt.
“The money has got to come out of contingencies, which are there for unexpected events like this. I believe they (the gritting teams) did an excellent job.”
The priority gritting routes in the district, comprising 250 miles of highway, remained passable at most times, but motorists on minor roads faced major difficulties, leading to a succession of collisions and cars being abandoned.
Asked if the Council’s winter preparations could have been any better. Coun Hawkesworth said: “The reality is that it’s easy for people to say things have gone to pot when we get a cold spell out of the blue.
“If it happened every year, we could prepare for it, but we can’t prepare for such a one-off.
“Everyone would like a grit bin of their own in their garage, but we just can’t do that.
“Hopefully the cost will be back around the £300,000 mark next year.”
When the heavy snow hit the district, the Council sent 27 gritters out on to the roads, with some working through the night in an attempt to prepare the roads for the morning rush hour.
Meanwhile, street cleaning staff hand-gritted pavements and pedestrian areas.
Coun Hawkesworth said: “There will be some extra costs – but not a lot – from the out-of-hours work but, during the day, we re-directed existing resources to deal with the problems caused by the weather.”
On February 2, Bradford Council despatched a convoy of vehicles to Cheshire to fetch more salt supplies after the suppliers said they couldn’t guarantee delivery.
At that stage, the Council only had about 1,000 tonnes of rock salt remaining after using 700 tonnes during a 24-hour emergency gritting operation.
By February 9, the Council had been forced to buy in supplies of table salt to treat the district’s icy pavements as local and national supplies of rock salt started to dwindle.