£3.7m cost of spring snow for Welsh councils

Gritters had to work round the clock to clear the drifts

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Snowstorms in Wales last March cost councils an extra £3.7m, it has been revealed.

Some local authorities were forced to dip into cash reserves to meet the bills and Flintshire alone had to find £1.15m.

The Welsh government also rejected requests from a number of councils to help fund the extra spending, BBC Wales has learned.

Officials said it was up to councils to deal with emergencies and plan ahead.

The snow in spring was the heaviest for 30 years in some parts of Wales, with drifts reaching more than 6ft (1.8m) in places.

Start Quote

Last winter wasn't a bad winter, it was a terrible winter”

End Quote Gareth Roberts Gwynedd council cabinet

It meant highways staff at councils like Conwy were working around the clock, as gritting lorries operated 24-hours a day.

It cost Conwy £500,000 and some of that money had to come from its general cash reserves.

"It just puts immense pressures on top of an incredibly tough job with our efficiency savings," said Mike Priestley, the Conwy councillor responsible for roads.

"It's just near on impossible... but you have to grit the roads.

"I'm hoping for a mild year this year, so I can save some money on the half a million pounds I have budgeted for winter maintenance."

The cost of meeting that extra bill also means it could impact on future road projects, admitted the councillor.

"We'll have to look at the budget, and we may look at some road resurfacing and whether we can push it back a year or so," added Mr Priestley.

'Empty reserves'

In Gwynedd, the bill topped £660,000.

The council said it had reserves set aside to meet the costs of a harsh winter but now that pot is empty.

"When we have a very mild winter and no major catastrophes, we put money aside in our budget to carry us over for a bad winter," said Councillor Gareth Roberts, who is responsible for highways on the authority's cabinet.

"But last winter wasn't a bad winter, it was a terrible winter. That's cleaned us out for this winter, and we've just got the normal budget.

"It's the future maintenance of our highways - it all comes out of the highways budget, so the proposed targeted work for various roads - resurfacing or whatever - that's had to be reprioritised, and just the most essential done to find this money"

Several councils, especially in north Wales, asked the Welsh government for assistance following the snow - but the cash did not come.

"Each application is considered carefully on a case by case basis," said a Welsh government spokesperson.

"There is no automatic entitlement to financial assistance, as local authorities have statutory functions to deal with emergencies and are required to plan accordingly.

"Any incident for which assistance is sought must involve conditions which are exceptional by local standards and damage to local authority infrastructure or communities must be exceptional in relation to normal experience."

Council Snow spend March 2013 Funded from:

Source: Local Authorities

Ceredigion

£265,000

"Budget and specific reserves"

Conwy

£500,000

Winter reserves & general reserves

Denbighshire

£389,000

Not disclosed

Flintshire

£1.15m

Winter reserves & general reserves

Gwynedd

£660,000

Reserves

Monmouthshire

£147,000

Savings elsewhere

Neath Port Talbot

£221,309

Winter reserves

Rhondda Cynon Taf

£50,000

"Funded by council"

Vale of Glamorgan

£23,000

Existing budgets

Wrexham

£291,000

Winter reserves & general reserves

Total:

£3.696m

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