24 August 2012

A pilot scheme which saw offenders help clear some footpaths in the event of snowfall last winter will be adopted for another year by Northamptonshire County Council.

The priority sites, which are areas with a high proportion of elderly residents, link with the existing network of gritted roads to allow access to essential services such as health centres, community centres or shops.

Funded by the NHS and run in partnership with Northamptonshire Probation Trust the scheme aims to reduce the number of trips, slips and falls that pedestrians experience, and reduce the anticipated call on the services of the National Health Service by the public.

Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage, county council cabinet member for infrastructure and public protection, said: “After a very successful trial last winter we’ve decided to keep the community gritting scheme running for another year as clearly there are advantages to treating the pavements in the priority areas.

“A key role of the county council is to help those who are most in need and I believe this collaborative effort is doing that very effectively.”

The recommendation is set to be approved by the council’s Cabinet as part of the review of its winter maintenance service at a meeting next week.

Another change includes making a saving on the winter service budget by introducing flexibility with regard to the start and finish of the gritting season.

Until now the winter season, defined as when contracted gritting crews are on standby, runs between October 1 and April 30.

However, in the past seven winters the start of the operational season has ranged from October 19 to November 30, while the end has ranged from March 15 to April 14.

It is proposed to change this so that the operational season commences when the weather forecast indicates that winter weather is to be experienced, and then the operation stepped down when forecasts suggest that winter has finished.

A more flexible approach not tied into fixed dates has the potential to reduce the standby payments, which are currently £8,000 per week, and would still allow the call out of the gritting fleet, with retrospective payments for the appropriate standby payment if required.

Cabinet will also hear that bagged gritting salt will be made available to parish councils at a cost of £4 per bag to be used locally.