There will be no repeat of the chaos of last year when the first signs of serious snow and ice hit the borough according to council leaders.
Following the introduction of a formal winter gritting policy, residents up and down the steep-sided borough were up in arms when many routes which used to be gritted were no longer being treated.
Through the winter, one of the worst for snow and ice in recent years, the policy was effectively reversed and councillors on Calderdale Council’s Place Scrutiny Board were pleased to hear that planning for the coming months will see routes that have traditionally been gritted continue to be treated.
Senior officers were on hand to outline how the service will work to members.
The detailed report includes a full list of roads which will be salted, the hierarchy of treatment (the resilient network, primary, secondary and tertiary networks, salt bins and salt piles, non-treatment roads and unadopted roads, plus footways), assessment criteria and a detailed breakdown of conditions under which gritting will take place as precautionary treatment.
Tenders have also gone out for local farmers and others to ensure services are carried out in some areas.
Members heard the gritting service had been brought back in-house in October last year after being out to tender and the gritting force – gritters and so on – was now in place.
Councillors heard the average cost of the service over the past five years was £1.1 million with the current approved budget for 2018-19 being £1.4 million.
Last year running the gritting service in the extreme weather had cost £2.7 million and if that happened again it would significantly exceed budget meaning compensatory savings within the highways budget would have to be found.
But, given the unknowns, it could be anticipated the budget of £1.4 million would deliver the service based on established gritting routes throughout a mild winter period.
Board chairman Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said he was “heartened” with the report.
“Its important the funding is still there, that’s in place. We are back where we were,” he said.
Cabinet member for Regeneration and the Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden), said it was important to say that the council had been able to divest itself of other contracts and the service was now in house. “We are in a better position than we were before,” he said.
He said it was important to point out that if service costs exceeded budget it affected the council, which had to make millions of pounds in savings in overall budgets in the coming three years, overall.
Calderdale grits 67 per cent of its roads – 470 miles – higher than most of its near neighbours (only Sheffield higher at 70 per cent), with Bradford gritting 62 per cent and Leeds just 43 per cent.