Many councils 'waiting for grit'

image captionLast winter was the worst in 30 years and created unprecedented demand for salt, suppliers say

Almost one in five councils does not yet have the road-gritting salt it needs for this winter, a Local Government Association survey suggests.

Its poll of 87 councils in England and Wales found 18% had not been provided with all the salt they had requested.

The survey also suggests that 78% of councils intend to have more salt in stock this winter, after some struggled to cope last winter.

Gritting supplier Salt Union said demand had been unprecedented in 2010.

Many councils were criticised after the worst winter in 30 years saw salt-stocks rationed after supplies fell short.

The councils surveyed were short for this winter by an average of 1,700 tonnes each.

The LGA poll also suggests that about 10% of councils have an arrangement to get supplies from abroad this winter.

LGA economy and transport board chairman Councillor Peter Box said: "Treating the roads during the past two winters has caused problems for councils because of salt suppliers being overwhelmed by demand. The whole country is well aware of the power of Mother Nature.

"As we go into another winter, a proportion of councils do not have as much salt in their storage facilities as they would like to have because the suppliers haven't provided all the stock they've asked for."

He said it was not ideal that the suppliers were already "playing catch-up".

"Councils all over the country are responding to this by setting up more arrangements with neighbouring councils to co-operate on supplies, and have looked into foreign sources of road salt," he added.

"Predicting winter weather can be difficult, as the Met Office is well aware.

"Whatever conditions descend on the country over the coming months, councils have spent the summer making sure they are more ready than ever to deal with them and keep neighbourhoods moving. The co-operation and help of residents everywhere will also be vital."

Salt Union said it understood how important it was that its customers started winter with appropriate salt stocks.

A spokesman said: "Following two severe winters, many councils have recognised the need to hold greater salt stocks and so demand has been unprecedented.

"As such, Salt Union has mined seven days a week since December 2009 and we've been in constant communication with local authority customers and other stakeholders, including the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency.

"Salt Union has also invested more than £4m in mining machines, processing equipment and storage facilities as part of a number of steps in order to prepare councils for winter weather."

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