Contractor paid £5,500 to clear council car park

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STAFF at Lincolnshire County Council have been able to park their cars without fear of getting stuck in the snow after a private contactor was paid £5,500 to clear the authority’s headquarters’ car park.

The Leader has received numerous complaints in recent weeks from residents complaining that key roads and paths near schools and doctors surgeries had not been cleared by the council.

But the county council said it had to clear its car park for the safety of its staff and that, despite its gritting teams working around the clock. it could not salt every road and pavement.

Jim Hogg, head of strategic asset management, said: “Like any other employer, the county council has a responsibility to the safety of its staff.

“The fact that the organisation they work for also happens to carry out the public gritting should not mean this is removed from the workers.

“We realise that everything we do is effectively spending taxpayers’ money, which is exactly why we took the decision to bring in an independent contractor to clear our car park; the amount of hours being taken up to tackle it were taking staff away from their duties and therefore potentially costing the authority more.

“We’d had to close the car park as it was dangerous, bringing access issues for employees and workers alike, so needed to re-open it as soon as possible to reduce disruption to the county council.”

* Gritting teams have almost used as much salt so far this year as they did for the whole of the 2007/08 winter.

* Despite starting the winter period with 31,600 tonnes – 8,000 more than usual – the authority has already used 57 per cent of this, following days and nights of continuous treatment.

This means it had just 13,600 tonnes left. With the next shipment of 10,000 tonnes due to arrive around early to mid-January, gritting teams will be making use of technology which measures whether any salt is still on the surface from their previous run, so it can adjust the new spread rate accordingly, avoiding using surplus grit.

* Whilst highways insist they will still cover their usual 3,008km (1,869 miles) of Lincolnshire’s main routes, including all A and B-roads, it says drivers need to take even greater care, and self-help on side-streets and pavements is even more crucial.

Darrell Redford, winter maintenance engineer, said: “Tireless efforts continue, day and night, to treat as much of the county as possible including all A and B roads, with our 35 per cent coverage above Government requirements.

“When temperatures reach and go beyond minus eight though, salt starts to become less effective, meaning there’s no guarantee that even treated routes will be completely free of ice.

“We’d love to treat pavements too, but our county is huge; if all the 4,500km of footway were laid in a straight line, they would reach Luxor in Southern Egypt.

“This means we can only choose priority pavements and only then in especially severe weather.”