On 26th July 2018, a Derbyshire County Council cabinet meeting revealed that it hadn’t met the level of cuts in spending required by government, and that although they had spent £18million reserve money on necessities that central government has defunded, there was a £2.8million cuts shortfall in the Highways department, due to the intense winter of 2017-2018.
The council assure us that they are not cutting their budget for winter maintenance, but in reality they were spending over that budget to achieve safety and functionality, and the budget itself may not be enough if this winter is as harsh as the last.
The alternative is to use wartime solutions, and get residents to do it for them for a lower cost than employing people in real jobs.
They want town and parish councils, and community groups to rally residents together to join their Snow Warden Scheme.
Each council or group will get a tonne of bagged grit. This will be free, but will need storage. Groups, councils and residents will also get training on how to clear snow and ice safely; they will also be privy to specialist weather reports.
The council would especially like farmers, and anyone with ploughing or gritting equipment to sign up “to help keep the county’s roads on the move from October to next April.”
Anyone accepted for this role (with equipment) will get £200 for signing up plus extra payments for call outs.
The council’s guide on responsibilities is:
“Snow wardens get involved in:
- clearing snow and ice from their community’s pavements
- reporting local conditions through our website
- reporting situations that affect vulnerable residents
- co-ordinating volunteers to clear snow and distribute grit
- reporting empty grit bins.
Farmers and contractors need to:
- provide their own equipment
- be available to work 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday – although extra help may be requested if conditions are particularly severe
- arrange appropriate insurance
- be able to respond to a call out within 90 minutes.”
Councillor Simon Spencer, our Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Infrastructure, said:
“While it may seem early to be preparing for winter, especially with our recent stretch of very warm weather, the reality is it’s not far off. We have to start planning now to make sure we have the right resources in place so we are ready when colder conditions arrive.
“We look after around 3,500 miles of roads and footpaths and grit around half of them. These include our major roads, routes where there is only one way in or out of an area, major bus routes and roads serving emergency services’ bases. But we can’t be everywhere, which is why our volunteers and contractors are an invaluable resource, particularly in our more rural parts.”
Councillor Spencer added:
“It’s never too late to sign up to either of these schemes and I would encourage anyone who’d like to volunteer to get in touch as soon as possible.”
This isn’t an entirely new move, as last year 71 town and parish councils helped to keep pavements clear of snow, and staff at 62 schools were enlisted to ensure student safety by clearing snow from school entrances. 50 farmers and other contractors also helped protect their local communities last winter.
Town and parish councils and other community groups interested in volunteering can find out more and sign up to the Snow Warden Scheme or call 01629 538074.
Find out more information about the farmers and contractors scheme.