Snow chaos strikes Britain but no one’s taking the blame

Why aren't local authorities better prepared, why don't they work more closely with central government and why doesn't every1 learn the lessons of past failures

The seeming inability of much of Britain to cope with the severe weather this week raises once again the question of why local authorities aren’t better prepared, do not work more closely with central government and don’t learn the lessons of past failures.

The AA has warned that grit supplies are at “critically low levels”, with AA president Edmund King telling the Guardian of his frustration at the poor response of the authorities:

We wrote to the Local Government Association (LGA) and Highways Agency in November expressing our concerns. Of course holding more stocks is more expensive but not as costly as the disruption to the nation when snow hits.”

However, the LGA told today’s Telegraph there is enough grit for Britain’s highways, insisting that:

There is sufficient grit across England to continue supplying all councils. Some authorities’ stocks might run low but they will enter into a mutual aid agreement with other councils or the Highways Agency to make sure everyone has enough.

“Overall there is enough salt at the moment but there might be some pressure points where places are feeling a shortage.”

To ensure local councils receive enough grit before running out, BBC Radio 5Live have reported that the Government are planning to seize salt supplies and control distribution. Many sporting events have been postponed, schools closed, hospital operations cancelled, power lines down and there has been transport chaos – on the trains, roads and at the country’s airports.

In Wales, the Assembly said it was the UK Government’s responsibility to deal with any salt shortfalls, Welsh Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones explained to the Western Telegraph. He said:

“We fully understand the pressures due to the severe weather. We will do what we can to assist those who require additional stocks of salt on a priority basis, even though the government’s responsibility is to maintain the trunk road network.

And in Scotland, following Left Foot Forward’s report of a lack of co-ordination between the Scottish Executive and local councils on Monday, Dumfries and Galloway Council yesterday said they only have “about one day’s supply of salt left”, prompting council leader Ivor Hyslop to fume:

“We have been alerting the Scottish government to the situation for at least two weeks and there has been no improvement. It’s time they came clean and stopped perpetuating the myth that salt supplies are fine in Scotland.

• For the latest information on the weather, see the Met Office, for the latest on the roads, see the AA and RAC, and for public transport, Transport For London and National Rail.

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