Salt stockpiles 'enough to cover severe winter'

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The Independent Online

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said today he was confident there was enough road salt in the event of severe winter weather.

He said that some salt had been imported from overseas and that a "strategic stockpile" was available if local councils ran into salting difficulties.

"I think we'll be able to cope. I am pretty confident we'll be OK," said Mr Hammond in an interview on ITV's Daybreak programme.

He said it was expensive to import salt from abroad and that there was a need for better productivity from the two main UK suppliers of road salt.

Mr Hammond said: "If local councils do have problems we can top them up."

Asked about potholes in roads, Mr Hammond said that the budget for dealing with this problem had not been cut and that £84 million from the previous Labour Government had been ring-fenced.

But Mr Hammond added: "There is a huge issue with the backlog of maintenance on local roads."

AA president Edmund King said: "We welcome the Government's recommendation that local highway authorities should hold 12 days' salt supply, as last winter many had only six day's supply, which led to chaos on many local roads.

"We estimate that we might need about 3.3 million tonnes of salt this winter while UK salt production runs at approximately 2.4 million tonnes. Hence there is a potential shortfall of nearly one million tonnes which shows the need for more stocks to be imported.

"The Highways Agency has started taking delivery of 250,000 tonnes as a strategic reserve but local authorities cannot and should not rely on this to cover all their extra needs.

"Three quarters of AA members in a Populus poll of 20,109 last January said that their local authorities had not done well in gritting minor roads during last winter's snow, so we hope to see a better performance this year."