Extreme weather costs council millions in maintenance

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Recent extreme weather including the Beast from the East storm left Durham County Council with a bill of nearly £5million, it has been revealed.

Along with the rest of the country, Durham County was battered by the Beast from the East and Storm Emma this year with disruption to public transport and council services.

The cost to the council of trying to keep services moving was £4,932,577 – for the period from December 2017 to March 2018.

This marked a £2,423,577 increase on the same period the previous year with spiralling costs across the majority of service areas.

Salt usage remained the biggest expense at £1,598,474 which more than doubled on the same period the previous year at £637,590.

Employee costs also rose from £537,292 to £930,168 while supplies and services costs leaped from £96,126 to £213,231.

Council work on ‘priority one’ routes jumped from £309,629 to £623,419 while ‘priority two’ routes rose from £20,784 to 358,194.

Service demands also saw cost rises in transport, use of contractors and management and capital charges while premises costs fell by £11,403 to £136,576.

The council’s corporate director for regeneration and local services, Ian Thompson, said: “Last winter was particularly severe and County Durham along with other parts of the country had some of the heaviest snowfall in living memory.  

“While we set a winter maintenance budget each year based on what we’d expect to spend in an average winter, the severe conditions last year meant we exceeded this.

“The extra funding came in full from our dedicated winter maintenance reserve.”

Speaking at the authority’s full council meeting in April, council leader Simon Henig added the council overspent its budget by more than £1.6m to the end of March 2018 due to the weather.

He added 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.

Durham County Council Winter Maintenance Costs - year on year:

December 2016 – March 2017 / (December 2017 to March 2018)

Employees – £537,292 (£930,168)

Premises – £147,979 (£136, 576)

Supplies and Services  – £96,126 (£213,231)

Salt Usage – £637,590 (£1,598,474)

Transport – £407,827 (£573,633)

Contractors – £61,981 (£214,442)

Priority 1 – £309,629 (£623,419)

Priority 2 – £20,784 (£358,194)

Management and Capital Charges – £280,922 (£284,440)

Total: £2,500,130 / (£4,932,577)

The winter storm also hit other authorities in the region with Sunderland City Council facing a £844,000 bill between December and March – £100,000 more than the usual cost.

South Tyneside Council faced a £305,331 bill and had to buy a additional 2,000 tonnes of salt alongside sourcing more drivers to keep priority routes open.

This cost the authority £80,000 more than during normal winter conditions.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service