THE budget for dealing with snow and ice in Fife was overspent by £733,000 last year – and it was a "mild" winter.

Council chiefs plan for the best, rather than the worst, of the cold weather with £3.14m set aside in 2021-22 for services such as gritting and ploughing.

They budget for a mild winter and although that's what they got, they ended up spending £3.87m due to the number of 'marginal' nights where temperatures hover a degree either side of freezing.

That necessitated a lot more road treatments and roads maintenance service manager Bill Liddle told councillors: "Before anyone asks, I don't have any long range forecasts.

"It's been a mild start to the winter, it's going to get colder in December and that's all the information we have at the moment."

After the very heavy snow and prolonged cold spell of 2010-11, winters in Fife have generally been milder and wetter save for the 'Beast from the East' in 2018 and, to a lesser extent, the frozen February of 2021.

Coupled with the need to save money, the council have reduced the number of grit bins in communities, revised gritting routes for roads and footpaths and improved their "spreader technology" so they're using less salt.

After sharp criticism in the past, Mr Liddle said they've tried to better explain to the public what they can and can't do, and "sought to address the imbalance between expectations and our available capacity of budget and resources".

For example, his report highlighted there are still 3,085 grit bins in the Kingdom, more than there are are in Edinburgh.

Fife gritter lorries also have greater distances to cover, the total length of the road network is 2,405km, more than the capital and East Lothian combined.

Mr Liddle stated: "The current Fife Council policy provides a 24-hour response throughout the winter period from November to March and delivers a level of service which is equal or better than other local authorities."

For this winter there's an increase to £3.21m but the environment, transportation and climate change scrutiny committee was told this is "under increasing pressure due to increased operational costs and budget reductions".

There are three main strands to the winter gritting and snow clearing policy; pre-salting to prevent ice from forming; post-salting to melt ice and snow; and ploughing to remove snow.

There are 21 primary routes "all of which are afforded 24-hour coverage throughout the winter period and are subject to completion within three hours of treatment commencing".

They include all A and B class roads; bus routes; access roads to hospitals, ambulance and fire stations, as well as transport hubs, bus and railway stations; "known trouble spots"; and next to important industrial and military establishments.

Motorways and trunk roads are the responsibility of Transport Scotland and their operating companies.

Fife holds a stockpile of 22,000 tonnes of rock salt – a resilience level based on 40 days of continual winter working – which costs just under £1m.

Storing it indoors, the council moved to do this a few years ago, means there is less leaching and in 2021-22 the council used 9,414 tonnes.

Over 10 years the average is just under 16,000 tonnes although in 2020-21 they got through 22,393 tonnes.