Volunteers will form a defensive front line for Angus communities if the beast from the east returns with a vengeance this winter.
Following a decision to slash footpath clearing in local towns and villages to save money, plans have emerged to train an army of shovel-wielding locals for gritting and snow-clearing duties.
However, the plan has been criticised in rural areas such as the Sidlaws, which will be left without a footway gritter under the changes.
The authority has set aside £2.6 million to deal with whatever the approaching winter may bring, a similar sum to that earmarked for 2017/18 before some of the worst conditions seen in years blasted the budget apart with an £800,000 overspend.
Councillors have already approved halving the district’s mini-gritter fleet to keep town and village pavements clear, and a plan to deal with the reduction includes recruitment of local volunteers, who will be given a stock of salt and training to keep footpaths ice-free.
In a report going before Angus communities committee councillors on Tuesday, the head of infrastructure Ian Cochrane, states: “Given the reduction in footway treatment and noting that this is an area of public interest, it is believed that this is an area of opportunity for local communities to become increasingly involved in the provision of local winter services.
“Like other authorities, it is proposed to offer community groups existing and new, particularly in villages, the opportunity to volunteer to take action in gritting and snow clearance.
“The proposal would be to offer community groups or representatives bags of salt or a local salt store, hi-vis vests and advice where they are prepared to take part.”
The report suggests the council will have to advertise for interest from communities, agree the role local volunteers would be expected to perform and offer training as well as explaining any liability attached to the arrangement.
Monifieth and Sidlaws SNP councillor Beth Whiteside said “I can see problems with this.
“The SNP group raised concerns when this was first thought about and for the amount of money that is going to be saved it doesn’t make sense.
“This could leave people struggling to get out to things like hospital appointments.”
The impact of the changes will be:
Forfar and Sidlaw – four footway gritters reduced to two for Forfar only; no footway gritters will be available for Sidlaw.
Kirriemuir – two footway gritters reduced to one.
Montrose – three footway gritters reduced to two; no footway gritters will be available for Ferryden or Hillside.
Brechin and Edzell – two footway gritters reduced to one for Brechin only; no footway gritters will be available for Edzell.
Arbroath & Friockheim, Letham and Wellbank – five footway gritters reduced to two for Arbroath only; no footway gritters will be available for Friockheim, Letham or Wellbank.
Carnoustie – two footway gritters reduced to one.
Monifieth – two footway gritters reduced to one.