Alex Cunningham MP calls for urgent action to keep Stockton North roads open next winter

Motorists may face more snow chaos next winter unless the government acts now on damning new criticism, Alex Cunningham MP has warned.

Alex spoke out after local authorities told a House of Commons enquiry on the severe weather that Britain had come close to a crisis as a result of poor government planning which left salt reserves dangerously low.

Alex has written to Stockton Borough Council to ask how close they came to running out of salt and what lessons they can learn from the severe weather.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across the country, told the transport select committee: “It is clear that the fundamental problems with the salt supply chain still exist and continue to threaten resilience to winter weather.” Their written evidence added: “If we were to experience another prolonged severe winter, it is questionable whether the systems in place would have been sufficient.”

Alex said: “The weather may be getting a bit warmer now, but unless ministers learn the lessons now they will let down motorists again next winter.”

“The government spent much of the winter with its head in the sand, claiming that the systems for keeping Britain’s roads open were working fine. We have now learnt how close those systems came to breaking down, which would have been disastrous for families and businesses in Stockton North and across the country. Ministers need to act now to ensure that there are functioning distribution systems and adequate supplies of salt in place, so road users aren’t placed at risk next winter.”

Labour has also revealed that had Britain experienced another period of prolonged winter weather in the first months of 2011, it could have run out of salt and grit supplies. Answers to Parliamentary Questions show that the country used almost 1,000,000 tonnes of salt coping with the snow and ice in November and December 2010, leaving less than 700,000 tonnes in reserve for the remainder of the winter.

John Woodcock MP, Labour’s shadow roads minister, said “Throughout the winter, Labour was pushing for assurances from ministers that the salt and distribution systems were in place to get Britain through the winter. The government needs to be doing everything in its power to ensure Britain’s road network is in a safe and usable state at all times. It came very close to failing in that duty last winter and it needs to be taking steps to ensure that does not happen again.”