If the coming winter brings more heavy snow, the Vale of Glamorgan Council is preparing to call on local farmers to help with road clearances across the county.
An internal council report says that last winter the council used 2,982 tonnes of salt at a cost of some £121,000 – double the number of salting treatments carried out during the winter periods between 2013/14 to 2016/17.
The Council report says the rural Vale roads were the ones worst affected – owing to their topography “the nature of the lanes which exacerbated the effect of drifting snow.”
Having the wrong kind of country-lanes is one problem – but physically getting snowploughs to where the deep drifts are is another. The council says it used “a number of local contractors and neighbouring councils” to assist with the immediate snow clearance of roads but also notes that “local farmers and other volunteers also assisted their local communities with snow clearance of local roads and particularly to assist those residents / communities in more isolated areas served by unclassified roads.”
The Vale Council says that in such emergency situations,many volunteers, including farmers, have “undertaken this service for free” . The council has only “limited funds” and says it “generally not affordable or practicable to pay for such assistance, particularly where no arrangements or agreement is in place to monitor work undertaken, or pay in retrospect, or where services have not been properly procured in accordance with the Council’s financial procedure rules. ”
In previous snow emergencies local farmers and colunteers didn’t receieve any payment – however the report says in last March’s heavy snow ” a number of farmers used a significant amount of resources to help keep their local roads open.” and it ruefully admits that ” the plant and machinery farmers had at their disposal was in some cases far superior to that available through the council’s own fleet ”
In reviewing the last big snowfall the Vale Council ays “an opportunity may have been missed which would have allowed for certain routes to have been cleared sooner” if there had been formal arrangements in place to engage those farmers at short notice
In view of that the Vale C0uncil had placed an advert in all editions of The GEM local newspaper published on 27th September 2018 inviting local farmers who are interested in assisting with emergency snow clearance to contact the council by Friday 5th October 2018. That invitation is still open.
The Vale Council will now “assess the suitability of local farmers who respond and, as appropriate, look to agree suitable terms & conditions for use of any plant and equipment for emergency snow clearance, including where necessary equitable rates to reimburse local farmers for the use of such equipment in appropriate circumstances.”
The National Farmers Union is to be called on to help set “appropriate rates and prices”.
The gross cost of providing the winter maintenance service in 2017/18, including the costs associated with the snow emergency in March 2018 was £768,000. The Welsh Government provided a contribution of only £90,000 to the council.
The current budget allocation to undertake the winter maintenance service in 2018/19 is £380,000 with Neighbourhood Services and Transport currently holding a “bad weather reserve” of £423,000.