Highland Council’s winter maintenance budget to overspend by £2.2 million

Ben Nevis from across Loch Eil, Lochaber, Scottish Highlands

The Highland Council have forecasted a potential financial year overspend of £2.2 million in its winter maintenance budget.

A combination of weather conditions and the timing of the most severe episodes is putting pressure on the winter maintenance budget.

Some of the worst weather conditions have fallen over weekends and the Christmas bank holiday periods, resulting in more overtime being required.

There has also been an increased usage of salt.

Chair of the Corporate Resources Committee, Councillor Alister Mackinnon, agreed to approach the Scottish Government again to make the case for additional funding for Highland.

He said: “The Highlands cover a third of Scotland and we have nearly 7,000km of regional roadways and 1,600km of footpaths, including some of the highest and most exposed routes in the UK. This is simply not recognised in our funding allocations from the Scottish Government.

“As a Council, we have protected winter maintenance as far as we possibly can over the past two years, however, there have been very challenging conditions this winter for keeping roads and footpaths clear of snow and ice and protecting vital connections and lifeline routes between remote communities.”

Chair of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Allan Henderson, added:

“After six years of relatively mild winters, the weather during November 2017 was significantly colder compared to recent years with a significant number of night time frosts and also upland snow.

“This has had the major effect of reducing the road surface temperatures to below zero much earlier in the year causing icy surfaces. We have also experienced very low temperatures and prolonged periods of freeze/thaw conditions that have seen salt spread being washed away and then refreezing later.

“Another significant challenge for us now is the effect of the weather has had on our road conditions with the formation and worsening of pot holes, as well as surfaces literally crumbling.

“Whilst we have also protected our roads maintenance budget, the available revenue and the reduction in available capital funds will mean that our capacity to tackle the vast amount of repairs required across the region, will be extremely diluted when we urgently need to be doing total reinstatement.

“Despite the Transport Minister’s offers of support for local authorities, there has been no additional funding forthcoming to offset our winter pressures. Highland is a special case and we will continue to make that case with the Scottish Government.”