A HAWICK councillor has called on Scottish Borders Council to rethink the proposed changes to the winter gritting programme.

Officers from Scottish Borders Council’s assets and infrastructure department have suggested gritting pavements within normal working hours, rather than the current 6am start time, to cut down on overtime payments to staff. 

However, this would mean that not all footways would be treated before 8.30am, when most people are travelling to work and children are making their way to school.

The proposals would also mean that pavements would not be gritted on bank holiday

At a meeting of the full council on Thursday August 29, Hawick and Hermitage councillor David Paterson asked members of the ruling executive: “Will this administration please drop any thoughts of changing the gritting regime now or at any time in the life of this council meaning that pavements in the Borders region would not be getting gritted before school children set off to school?”

Selkirk councillor Gordon Edgar, who acts as the executive’s member for roads and infrastructure, said: “Members will be aware that the executive has considered a report on a review of the winter service. 

“One of the proposals contained in the officer’s report was to alter the approach to the treatment of footpaths, and this would have the potential to see a later than current start time for treatments and may see no treatments of footpaths being undertaken at weekends.

“The executive has asked officers to reconsider the recommendation re footpaths and represent a report on this specific aspect prior to arriving at a decision.

“In doing so the executive must consider the requirement to deliver financial efficiencies along with an appropriate risk balanced approach to public safety during normal winter weather conditions.”

At the last meeting of the council’s executive committee in August, councillors heard from infrastructure manager Brian Young, who told the committee that the council’s footway treatment typically starts at 6am to allow the authority’s ‘priority footways’ to be completed by 8.30am.

He told councillors that beginning treatment during normal working hours, i.e. 9am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday, could save the council around £82,000 a year as it would no longer need to pay overtime. However, if salting was to continue on weekends that saving would drop to £58,000 a year.

At Thursday’s full council meeting, councillor Paterson followed his previous question by asking about vulnerable people. 

He said: “Does the executive member not feel that this will lead to people staying in all weekend because they fear for their safety? Because vulnerable people may slip and take a fall?”

To which councillor Edgar replied: “The safety of the public is paramount to the department and it would be readdressed if such things happened.”