Aberdeen City Council has been warned that its winter roads budget will only be able to cope with a mild season – while forecasters have predicted the coldest in more than 30 years.
The local authority has set aside more than £1.5 million in preparation for chillier weather, and has stockpiled 9,441 tonnes of salt – which will be topped up regularly.
But a report to be presented to councillors next week reveal that that there is a “high risk” its allocated budget “will only cover costs of a mild winter” and warns that additional funds may be required in the event of high snowfall.
Scientists at University College in London have said temperatures could plunge in January and February and conditions similar to the infamous Beast From The East storm could sweep across the nation.
During budget negotiations this earlier this year, the ruling Conservative, Aberdeen Labour and independent administration approved more than £40 million of savings – including a £153,000 cut to winter roads maintenance.
But council leaders have called for more cash from Holyrood to cover the expense – especially as roads like Anderson Drive have now fallen under the authority’s control following the opening of the AWPR.
The report states: “The expenditure is heavily dependent on actual conditions experienced during the winter.
“It would therefore be prudent to note that authorisation may be required for continued expenditure beyond the budget, should the weather be worse than anticipated.”
Opposition SNP group leader, Stephen Flynn, said: “The dangers posed by the cold weather are well known but this did not stop the administration from stripping over £150,000 from the budget this year.
“The SNP rejected these cuts and, like everyone living in Aberdeen, we’ll be watching on hoping that there is a much more mild winter in store than what has already been predicted.”
But council operations convener, John Wheeler, said he was confident measures would be in place to handle the worst of the weather.
He said: “In emergency circumstances there are contingencies in place to make sure the roads are open and usable, I have asked officers this question and have been reassured.
“Perhaps my SNP colleagues could knock on the door of Bute House and ask for money from the Scottish Government to cover the additional costs of road infrastructure.”
Aberdeenshire Council has been warned it may have to dip into its reserves to pay for road maintenance even in the event of a mild winter.
A report published in June that even a mild winter would be extremely challenging for the council to deal with.
Infrastructure director Stephen Archer, who wrote the report, said the £4.52 million budget falls far short of the funds needed for even a mild winter, like the most recent one the region experienced.