Winter weather preparations

The region is ready to tackle another 'beast from the east' should it arrive this winter.
The region is ready to tackle another 'beast from the east' should it arrive this winter.

Significant cutbacks to the Borders winter service plan may need to be made in the future because of financial pressures on Scottish Borders Council.

This year’s winter service plan is in place - with the council prepared to deal with another ‘beast from the east’ should there be a repeat of the extreme weather experienced in February this year.

However, Scottish Borders Council’s infrastructure manager Brian Young has warned councillors that future winter provisions will need to be scaled back:

“The 2017/18 winter was significant in terms of both snow and ice, and of particular note was the prolonged length of that winter. We were still getting significant snowfall in March, and road treatment continued well into April.

“In terms of the winter service plan for 2018/19, it’s very similar in terms of policy, priority routes and resource allocation.

“There are two main strands to how the council keeps the road network operating smoothly and effectively. Firstly through prevention, in the form of pre-salting, and secondly through intervention which takes place during extreme weather conditions.

“It is believed that the 2018/19 winter plan is a robust plan.

“As a consequence of continuing financial restraints, it is likely that significant changes will be required to the winter 2019/20 plan.”

The adverse weather in February and March cost the council an extra £1.4m, which was partly offset by Scottish Government funding of £401,000. Scottish Borders Council was forced to dip into its winter reserve, which has now been replaced from elsewhere in the budget in preparation for this winter.

This year, £5.3m has been set aside to repair roads and bridges damaged by winter weather.

A spokesperson for the council said: “It is important that the council retains a sufficient adverse weather reserve within overall revenue balances to deal with periods of weather that are more severe than the norm.

“Despite the late snow the overall winter was not significantly severe.”

Scottish Borders Council covers a 1,860-mile road network, it has 28 primary routes and 94 vehicles available to help with winter service. There are 1,158 salt bins across the region and the council currently has 18,750 tonnes of salt stored ready for winter.