Roads minister Jesse Norman has warned against complacency in managing winter salt stocks, telling councils that his officials will be keeping a close eye on them.
Mr Norman has written to the leaders of all local highway authorities in England outside London ‘to highlight again the importance of key steps needed in order to ensure that local highways remain open and running in the event of severe weather’.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has published a strategic salt protocol setting out arrangements for the allocation of salt from the national emergency reserve, ‘if and when required’, including the price of salt.
The protocol states that for this winter season, the DfT has an emergency salt stockpile of approximately 271,906 tonnes, with a further 95,526 tonnes being held by Highways England.
However, Mr Norman told council leaders: ‘Last year, after a long and difficult winter, we saw a number of authorities with reduced salt stocks.
Unfortunately this led to a few authorities having to request mutual aid. With this in mind, we have made it clear that we expect authorities to guard against any complacency in managing and maintaining their salt stocks.’
He added that that it is ‘often unrealistic’ to expect salt producers and hauliers to deliver within 24 hours of an order being made, particularly when the country is entering a severe snow event, adding that once an authority has used a substantial portion of its salt stocks, it should re-order enough to retain at least the 12-day benchmark throughout the winter season.
The minister wrote: ‘We will be undertaking regular monitoring of salt stocks being held by highway authorities starting in December. I look forward to your council’s cooperation with my officials as and when they request this information, which will be at least monthly. Your council’s assistance in this is very important.’
The protocol states that salt from the emergency reserve will cost £65 per tonne for 6mm salt to BS3247, excluding VAT and haulage, with the local authority responsible for arranging collection.
It states: ‘The Government does not make any profit if there is a need to allocate salt from the emergency salt reserve to highway authorities. The premium price of the salt only covers the cost of the salt itself which has been imported from various locations overseas together with the additional cost of it being stored and managed at various port locations around England.’