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CITY'S TRUE GRIT IN BATTLE FOR SALT; Council secures late delivery of vital supplies.

Byline: DAVID BARTLETT

LIVERPOOL faced a desperate race against time to secure vital grit stocks after running out yesterday.

Council officials had spread 250 tonnes on the city's icy roads since December 29 - but took no fresh deliveries during that time.

They have now managed to secure 110 tonnes of grit, which were due to be spread overnight.

But the episode sparked a row between the council and the gover nment.

The council initially said the government was controlling stocks, but the department for transport claimed it was "nonsense" to suggest it was rationing supplies.

It appeared a breakdown in communication caused the problem, but where blames lies was not clear.

The ECHO understands managers at Enterprise-Liverpool, the council joint venture which handles road maintenance, were furious the city had no salt delivered for six days.

But the Government Office for the North West insisted there was "no truth" in claims it demanded supplies were prioritised for Greater Manchester, which had colder weather and more snow.

Today, the council said it was "requesting the government to ensure suppliers, the Highways Agency and all local authorities work closely together so no council is left short of grit during periods of extreme weather".

Officials revealed the council had run out of salt yesterday.

Assistant executive director Mike Burchnall told the ruling Liberal Democrat executive board the government was controlling supplies.

Deputy council leader Flo Clucas described the situation as "Monty Python-esque".

She added: "I find it unbelievable Merseyside grit is now being managed by the government office.

"If there is no grit available and lorries cannot get out tonight, it is going to make tomorrow morning very chaotic."

Mr Burchnall said the council routinely used 64 tonnes of grit in cold weather, rising to 120 tonnes if severe snow and ice were forecast.

But a council spokesman later added: "Our main concern is that the city has adequate stocks to grit the roads during this prolonged period of icy weather.

"We have secured 110 tonnes and we are expecting further supplies to be delivered throughout the week.

"Our aim is to ensure roads are gritted whenever required and remain as safe as possible.

"All local authorities are facing similar problems and there are contingency plans for councils to provide grit supplies to each other."

Cllr Tim Moore, opposition spokesman for the environment, said he was assured two weeks ago the council had enough stock of road grit.

He said: "Now the council has run out. This is poor planning and unacceptable complacency."

A spokesman for the DfT said: "We are not rationing salt supplies and it is nonsense to suggest otherwise.

"We continue to monitor salt levels across the country and any localised shortfalls can be met by mutual aid."

CAPTION(S):

ICY WEATHER: Geese walking on the lake in Sefton park which has frozen over in the recent icy conditions and (above) mining road salt in deepest Cheshire
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2010
Words:487
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