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Council reveals £844,000 cost of dealing with Beast from the East in Sunderland

Sunderland City Council snow-clearing underway in Burdon Lane during the Beast from the East
Sunderland City Council snow-clearing underway in Burdon Lane during the Beast from the East
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Council bosses have been left counting the huge cost of this year’s winter blast.

Along with the rest of the country, Wearside was battered by ‘The Beast from the East’ and also Storm Emma.

The cost to Sunderland City Council of trying to keep the city moving during the winter weather was £844,000 – for the period from December to March – £100,000 more than the usual cost.

Staffing was the highest cost at £433,000, followed by £306,000 for salt and gritting costs.

Transport – which covers fuel, repairs and hire costs – cost the council £74,000.

The full break down of costs was:

•£433,000 on extra staff

•£306,000 on salting and gritting

•£74,000 on transport

•£19,000 on salt loading and shovel hire

•£5,000 on weather forecasting

•£4,000 on grit bins

•£3,000 on admin

Mark Speed, head of place management at the council, said: “The unprecedented wintry weather at the end of February and beginning of March placed a huge demand on council resources, with council gritting teams working 24/7 to keep the city’s major routes open so that public transport, commuter traffic and business could keep moving.

“This allowed critical emergency, council and health services to carry on running and vital services to continue to be delivered to the city’s most vulnerable residents.”

He said the demands meant having to use staff from these other service areas and additional equipment.

Mr Speed, said: “In previous years the council has allocated £700,000-£750,000 for winter maintenance.

“This year’s extreme weather through the core winter period and the resulting clear-up after the storms necessitated a spend of £844,000.”

He said there was an increased demand for grit bins and the specialised weather forecasting service provided a tailored forecast on conditions and how they would impact the roads, allowing informed decisions on the optimum time to treat the roads.

He said this played a key role in helping preparations.

The council officer, said: “While some were critical, many more people were really appreciative of the fantastic work the teams were doing in trying conditions to keep the city moving through some of the worst weather it has seen in years.”

However, Coun Stephen O’Brien, a member of the Liberal Democrat party, said: “I am utterly shocked with the council’s lack of preparedness for prolonged periods of bad weather.

“One wonders why the council has to hire gritters and shovels, instead of having these ‘in house.’”

He said the extra money would have been better spent on improving bin collections.