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Roads: Snow and Ice

Volume 506: debated on Friday 26 February 2010

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport if he will make it his policy not to override local authority contracts for the supply of salt and grit. (318905)

The Department for Transport only provides advice to salt suppliers on prioritising deliveries to ensure salt is delivered to where it is needed most. Advice is provided by the Salt Cell, comprising officials from the Department for Transport, the Devolved Administrations, the Highways Agency and local authority representatives. The Salt Cell has remained in operation since 6 January and its advice has been extremely important in ensuring that no authorities have so far run out of salt despite the worst winter weather in 30 years. The Salt Cell's advice is based upon information provided by highway authorities on their stock levels and weather forecasts. It is a matter for the salt suppliers to decide what deliveries they make.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what assessment he has made of the preparedness of local authorities for the recent severe weather conditions including the provision of salt and grit in (a) Northamptonshire and (b) England. (318907)

Following the severe weather conditions in February 2009, the Government asked the UK Roads Liaison Group to identify the lessons that should be learnt regarding highway authorities’ preparedness for extreme weather events. The UK Roads Liaison Group made 19 recommendations, one of which advised that:

“in considering appropriate service standards, at least six days resilience would represent sensible good practice for determining the number of days resilience during the core winter period”.

It is for each authority to consider the recommendations and decide for themselves how best to take them forward. However, a write-round in late October 2009 by regional resilience teams (RRTs) in the Government Offices found that of those local authorities that responded (a third of local highway authorities) all but one were holding at least six days’ supply, and more than half of those responding arranged to hold 10 days’ supply or more. Northamptonshire county council reported that it had reviewed the UKRLG’s recommendations and that it held 11,000 tonnes at that time.