Winter maintenance costs helps send Durham County Council £1.6m over budget

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Severe weather over the winter sent Durham County Council more than £1m over budget.

Today’s (Wednesday) (April 18) full council meeting at Durham County Hall heard an update on the cost of the co-called Beast from the East and other bad weather over the past months.

The worst affected areas saw school closed, services disrupted and snowdrifts up to five ft deep in some places.

Council leader Simon Henig said: “2017/18 has been one of the most challenging winters we’ve faced as a unitary authority.

“There were several heavy snow events and the use of several tons of salt in one week alone.

“The cost of that is estimated at £1m.”

He added: “We’ve overspent the budget by £1.6m – this is why we have reserves.”

He also said the government had acknowledged the ‘battering’ taken by the county’s roads and that top ups from the Department for Transport mean about £17m is due to be spent on highway repairs this year.

In light of the disruption caused by the weather, Coun Mark Wilkes proposed a motion which, among other things, thanked council staff for ‘keeping our highways and other services running’ and called for a review of winter maintenance and grit bins.

He said: “Every year we have residents get in touch to ask if they can have a grit bin in different locations.

“There are locations in every electoral division where it seems unacceptable and unreasonable that there isn’t a grit bin.

“Some streets just miss the current criteria, but can be frozen for days on end and one of our villages has 200 residents and no grit bin.”

However, councillors voted to amend the motion to remove calls for an end of year review of winter maintenance on the basis that the council already did this.

Members also votes to remove calls for a review of grit bins and for more money to be spent on highways.

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service