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Highland Counts The Cost Of Winter Maintenance

24th March 2010

The coldest winter in the Highlands since 1962 has resulted in an estimated overspend on The Highland Council's Transport, Environmental and Community Services budget by £1.497 million (2.2%) by the end of the financial year.

Figures presented to the Council's TEC Services Committee have shown that the Highland Winter Maintenance budget is estimated to be overspent by £2.276 million by the end of the financial year. Members, however were informed that due to the redeployment of labour resources to winter maintenance from other Roads and Community Works activities the Service managed to reduce the estimated winter overspend to £1million of the overall £1.497 million projected service overspend.

Members welcomed an update on a review of operational services during the period of extreme weather in the Highlands in December 2009/ January 2010.

Councillor John Laing, Chairman of the Council's TEC Services Committee said: "We have had various discussions throughout the Highlands with Council members at Ward Forums and community council meetings and we are keen that all the issues concerning winter maintenance are raised."

Neil Gillies, Director of TEC Services informed members that the initial review had been a scoping exercise to identify key issues for further more detailed investigation. He advised members that

The initial review of the service has identified various areas for more detailed

Investigation including:

∑ route priorities (roads, footpaths and car parks); level of resources; arrangements with external contractors and locals farmers; and use of voluntary organisations;

∑ arrangements for procuring and storing salt (local/national issues); provision of grit bins; and trees overhanging roads;

∑ standby arrangements over the Christmas/New Year holiday; and flexibility within the Council's workforce;

∑ arrangements for care homes and sheltered housing, schools, internal housing footpaths and with the Emergency Services and Trunk Road Operating Companies; and

∑ how the public communicate with the Council during a holiday period and how the Council communicates with the public; use of the media to inform the public and communications with Elected Members.

The main service areas affected by the extreme weather were winter maintenance, refuse collections and burials.

Mr Gillies said: "The problems with the refuse collection were not the service itself - but the issue of gaining access to uplift bins. He added: "Regarding burials, credit must be given to our staff for the fact that all planned burials went ahead in the Highlands during this period of extreme weather. As our road salt supply is now up to 15,000 tonnes we can now lift the salt conservation measures that we put in place on the 14th January. We have now resumed a full winter maintenance service."

Members agreed that detailed reviews of the Council's Winter Maintenance Policy and Operational Procedures; and the burial administration service during the holiday period is undertaken to ensure consistency of the latter across the Highlands, and that the outcomes are reported to a future TECS Committee.

Members also noted that a review of the arrangements for customer contact during the Christmas/New Year period will be included in an overall review to be undertaken by the Council's Chief Executive.


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