Council cuts winter budget by £50K

SCOTTISH Borders Council is to cut £50,000 from its winter spending this year.

The savings were agreed by the local authority’s executive committee this week, although a £360,000 overspend has been forecast.

Councillors were told that only £2.665million has been allocated to cover this winter, despite the average winter expenditure falling in the region of £3.025million.

The allocation is £835,000 less than the £3.5million spent in each of the last two severe winters.

The winter plan report highlighted six areas of improvement or where money could be saved, including night cover, winter desk coverage, salt use and storage and salt bin provision.

It was revealed that £100,000 could have been saved by reducing night shift cover for salt spreading and other emergencies, but officers will keep the current arrangement to meet EU rules and changes in nocturnal conditions.

However, a £15,000 cut will be made by scrapping winter desk coverage between 8pm and 4am. Further savings of £30,000 were hoped for through the trial of salt additives last year but the scheme has been scrapped after a conclusion on its effectiveness could not be reached.

Instead, £10,000 will be knocked off the winter bill by reducing salt wastage through an automated treatment system in SBC’s six gritters.

The council has 19,000 tonnes of salt in eight stores, but during last year’s extreme wintry conditions, levels reduced to less than 1,000 tonnes. Councillors backed plans to look into creating a new covered salt storage area to offset future shortages.

The biggest efficiency will come through SBC’s decision to leave out salt bins all year, reducing overheads by £30,000. Any bins that are on regularly salted routes will be reallocated.

SBC hopes villages and towns can fund further salt facilities themselves.

Councillor Ron Smith said: “Some of the suggestions being made, eg. building up larger stocks of salt at normal price, rather than having to buy at higher price in time of crisis, seem entirely sensible.”