Councils still waiting for salt but transport secretary says 'we'll cope'

The earliest snowfall in 17 years has lead to fears that the UK's local authorities have insufficient salt to treat the nation's roads.

The Transport Secretary moved to ease concerns on ITV's Daybreak by reassuring viewers he felt that the government had ensured there would be enough stocks on hand.

But Peter Box of the Local Government Association highlighted the fact that some authorities remain concerned, saying: "The fact that many councils are still waiting for salt to be delivered at this late stage is undoubtedly going to make a challenging time of year even more difficult."

However, he said that the preparations were far advanced compared to previous years, with nearly half of all local councils investing in new gritting machinery in the last year, and as much as 33 percent more grit has been ordered than for last winter.

"Councils are leaving nothing to chance. Many have invested in new gritting vehicles, and the majority have ordered in thousands of tonnes worth of extra salt," he said.

"Gritters will be on call to operate around the clock, seven days a week on treacherous roads in freezing conditions to ensure that schools remain open, businesses keep running and emergency services can continue saving lives."

Transport Minister Philip Hammond moved to allay fears that the country might run out of salt, saying there is a "strategic stockpile" in case levels get low. "I think we'll be able to cope. I am pretty confident we'll be OK," he added.

AA president Edmund King said: "We welcome the government's recommendation that highway authorities should hold 12 days' salt supply. Last winter, many had only six days' supply, which led to chaos on many roads."
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