Councils ‘geared up for potential Beast from the East return’

18 Jan 19

Councils have been gearing up for the plunging temperatures and snow forecast for next week, the Local Government Association has said.

The Met Office issued a warning cold weather is about to hit the UK and could last well into February, which will include widespread frosts, ice and potentially snow.

Councils shelled out millions of pounds to deal with extreme weather conditions last winter, dealing with blocked roads, closed schools and additional pressure on emergency help for rough sleepers. The army was also called in to help get crucial NHS staff to work.

An LGA ‘winter readiness survey’ of 86 councils revealed 94% have more or the same level of salt to grit roads than they did last year.

Preparation was a “key priority” despite funding cuts, the umbrella-group found.

More than half (55%) of the councils said they would share salt stocks if necessary, 30% would share gritting machinery and 22% will send staff to key locations.

The LGA’s transport spokesman Martin Tett said: “Councils are well prepared for snow and ice this weekend and sub-zero temperatures throughout winter, with an abundance of salt stockpiled.

“Across the country, local authorities have again risen to the challenge and already put measures in place to protect their residents from floods, ice, and wintry conditions.”

Tett said councils were “constantly monitoring the weather” to stay “one step ahead”.

Council budgets were hit hard last winter dealing with severe weather conditions, including the ‘Beast from the East’ – a cold wave, which started on 24 February.

It cost councils £5m in parking fines, which weren’t issued compared to the year before, according to data collected from three-quarters of UK councils.

Caerphilly and Monmouthshire spent almost £900,000 between them in February and March last year.

Durham County Council forked out almost £5m extra to keep services moving between December 2017 and March 2018, nearly double what they spent in the 2016-17 winter.

The LGA’s survey was carried out in October last year.

A government-commissioned winter resilience review in 2010 suggested English councils spend around £160m per year dealing with winter weather.

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