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Council insists there's plenty of grit for the winter roads

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Figures show council intends spending less on grit and road clearing, but claims service levels held constant

WEST Berkshire Council has denied cutting its winter service budget despite spending less on grit this year than last.

Figures obtained through freedom of information requests show the council is hoping to cut spending on grit and snow clearing services by almost 10 per cent this year.

The figures, obtained by Russell Jones & Walker Solicitors, shows West Berkshire Council is planning on spending £615,000 on winter services during this budgetary year, £71,022 less than it did in 2010/11.

The most the council has spent on winter services in recent times was in 2006/07, when it shelled out £953,908.

But the council indicated that its grit provision would remain constant this year, saying the lower spending was the result of having stockpiled provisions last year.

Like last year, the council has 5,000 metric tons of grit available.

The council also indicated it will be treating more roads than previously.

Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said: “I can confirm that there are no budgetary cuts in winter services. In fact, the number of routes treated have been increased.

“We have 5000 tons of salt. This amount was agreed at a scrutiny meeting following winter 2009 and has not changed.”

Last year, the council used up more than 82 per cent of its grit stock, with only 854 tons remaining, but that was considerably better than 2009/10, when it used up more than 99 per cent and only had a scant 8 tonnes left for emrgencies left when spring started to bloom.

Liz Dux, a partner at Russell Jones & Walker, said this years grit provision was ‘good news' but added that drivers should take care to avoid both accidents and litigation.

She said: “Pursuing cases that arise out of skidding on icy roads is notoriously difficult. The legalities about driving in wintery conditions are grey, but a few basic dos and don'ts should ensure you stay injury free in the depths of winter.”

She also sought to dispel some legal misconceptions, saying that there was nothing to fear from clearing snow outside your own house:

“Anybody who makes an effort to help the community by clearing the snow from outside their home shouldn't fear legal action if a pedestrian slips over.

“The advice is simple: as long as the snow has been cleared in a way that doesn't cause obstacles or hazards i.e. mounds of snow in the middle of the pavement, there would be no issue of liability.”

“Be socially responsible, if you know the pavement outside your house is used regularly particularly by elderly people and children - clear it,” she added.

She also said that while employees have no legal protection for missing work due to inclement road conditions, getting to work on time was not worth putting your life at risk by driving in dangerous conditions.

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