CONVICTED criminals will be drafted in to clear footpaths during any severe weather in South Tyneside this winter, it was revealed today.
People taking part in the Northumbria Probation Trust’s Community Payback teams will clear snow as part of South Tyneside Council’s £418,000 plan to grit roads, salt footpaths and prevent the borough becoming gridlocked, as it was two years ago.
The offenders will work unpaid for the benefit of the community and be tasked with helping council workers in clearing borough footways.
The council and probation service agreed the partnership deal last year, but because of a relatively mild winter the teams were on standby, but never used.
The workers, all of whom are from the borough, will clear snowfall from streets, pavements and public areas as quickly as possible.
They will be redirected from other community-based work to provide a rapid response to any urgent need.
Martyn Strike, head of Community Payback for the Probation Trust, said: “This is a great way for offenders to repay local communities for the crimes they have committed.
“Clearing snow is physically demanding and time-consuming work. Without it, roads, pavements and car parks can become unsafe.
“We are pleased to work with South Tyneside Council and utilise the offenders’ Community Payback hours to help local people in this way, as and when the need arises.”
The council is starting the winter with a stockpile of 7,750 tonnes of salt.
Dependent on weather conditions, usage is expected to vary between 30 and 300 tonnes a day.
Meanwhile, the council’s four gritting vehicles will operate between 10pm and 7am from November through to March, or by dayshift drivers, as conditions demand.
This year, for the first time, snow shovels will also be supplied to community groups to clear snow from the public highway. The council has also bought extra equipment, as a result of the severe weather two years ago.
These include six pedestrian-operated snow blowers, which collect and blow snow to the roadside, 30 hand-salters and one towable gritter, for areas that aren’t readily accessible by normal gritting vehicles, including back lanes and estates. Councillors will receive a report on the winter preparations when they meet next week.
The report says plans are in place to give particular support to sheltered housing schemes and funeral directors.
It adds: “The total budget for the winter service is £418,000.
“This covers gritting vehicle recharges and night shift driver salaries.
“Also included is £50,000 allocated to purchase salt, hire a loading shovel and payments of contracts for weather and bureau services.
“There is a risk that, if the coming winters prove severe, the service will be subjected to increased demands for services over and above that planned for, including the potential hiring of extra plant to clear snow from school frontages and housing estates.”