Council bosses are being urged to put proposed changes to their winter gritting programme on ice.
Officers in Scottish Borders Council’s assets and infrastructure department have suggested gritting pavements within normal working hours, rather than from 6am, as is the case now, to cut down on overtime payments to staff.
However, that would mean that not all footways would be treated before 8.30am, by when many 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 holidays.
Concerns have been voiced about the increased risk of slipping on ice that change could pose to Borderers, and Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson is among those fearful of the consequences.
At the council’s latest full meeting, Mr 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?”
Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar, 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 was to alter the approach to the treatment of footpaths, and this would have the potential to see a later start time for treatments and may see no treatments of footpaths being undertaken at weekends.
“The executive has asked officers to reconsider the recommendation regarding footpaths and re-present 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, that footway treatment typically starts at 6am to allow pedestrian routes designated as priorities to be completed by 8.30am.
He told councillors that beginning treatment during normal working hours, as in 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 were to continue at weekends, that saving would drop to £58,000 a year.
At last Thursday’s full council meeting, Mr Paterson followed up his question by asking about the impact of griiting cutbacks on vulnerable people.
He asked: “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?”
Mr Edgar replied: “The safety of the public is paramount to the department and it would be readdressed if such things happened.”