Some councils short of road grit

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The Independent Online

Some councils have not yet received all the road-gritting salt they need from suppliers for this winter because of "unprecedented demand", it was revealed today.

Responses from 87 councils to an Local Government Association poll showed 18 per cent had not been provided with all the salt they had requested and were short by an average of 1,700 tonnes each.

The survey also showed that 78 per cent of councils intended to have more salt in stock this winter, with the rest aiming for the same amount as last year when some councils struggled to cope with the worst winter for 30 years.

A spokesman for gritting supplier Salt Union said: "Following two severe winters, many councils have recognised the need to hold greater salt stocks and so demand has been unprecedented.

"As such, Salt Union has mined seven days a week since December 2009 and we've been in constant communication with local authority customers and other stakeholders, including the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency."

Covering councils in England and Wales, the poll also showed that around 10 per cent of councils had an arrangement to get supplies from abroad this winter.

LGA economy and transport board chairman Councillor Peter Box said: "Treating the roads during the past two winters has caused problems for councils because of salt suppliers being overwhelmed by demand. The whole country is well aware of the power of Mother Nature.

"As we go into another winter, a proportion of councils do not have as much salt in their storage facilities as they would like to have because the suppliers haven't provided all the stock they've asked for."

He added: "Although there should be a few weeks' grace before gritting is necessary on a large scale, it is not ideal that the suppliers are playing catch-up from the word go.

"Councils all over the country are responding to this by setting up more arrangements with neighbouring councils to co-operate on supplies, and have looked into foreign sources of road salt.

"Predicting winter weather can be difficult, as the Met Office is well aware. Whatever conditions descend on the country over the coming months, councils have spent the summer making sure they are more ready than ever to deal with them and keep neighbourhoods moving. The co-operation and help of residents everywhere will also be vital."

The Salt Union spokesman said suppliers had also invested more than £4 million in mining machines, processing equipment and storage facilities as part of a number of steps in order to prepare councils for winter weather.