17 December 2009

Durham County Council extends winter service after PCT pledges £1 million

Durham CC’s winter service work will stretch further this season thanks to a £1m pledge from its local primary care trust (PCT). Durham has said the cash, which will be split evenly over the next two years, will enable it to extend its salt spreading from 43% to 45% of the 4,800 kilometre network. The Council’s budget for winter service is around £2.75m, although the bad weather last winter left it £1m over-budget, so the PCT funding will allow for significant additional work.

The extra spreading capability on the roads will help emergency service vehicles and minimise collisions. It will also improve footways. Terry Collins, director of neighbourhood services, said the Council will focus on strategically important pedestrian areas, such as care homes and doctors surgeries in an attempt to cut trips and falls – the leading cause of serious injury to the elderly.

‘Last year we weren’t able to get to all the rural areas we would have liked to and some of the community were not able to get about,’ said Terry Collins.

‘We discussed this as part of our winter service strategy in the summer, and are now able to put into action the plans we came up with then, such as extending spreading on bus routes.’

The cash will also allow Durham to equip a team of volunteers to treat paths and walkways and fund a new SMS text alert service via the Council’s website, which will let residents know about bad weather and where spreading is taking place. Darlington and Durham PCT said the initiative will be evaluated over the next two years to assess its impact on those vulnerable people at risk during cold weather. ‘This is an innovative approach, supported by evidence that older people are more likely to stay healthy for longer,’ said Anna Lynch, the PCT’s director of public health.

‘We believe there is a clear need to explore the potential to prevent falls by positive accident prevention.’ The move hit the headlines when a PCT governor quit in an ‘incandescent rage’ over the donation. In November 2009, shadow transport secretary Teresa Villiers said she was already looking at health and transport crossovers in central government, saying she would press the Department of Health to include cycling in its plan because of the health benefits.

 
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