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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5 Responses to “Snow chaos strikes Britain but no one’s taking the blame”

  1. Rory

    Conservative councils, Boris Johnson and the SNP government are clearly to blame. The response of the DUP-Sinn Fein administration in Northern Ireland has also been atrocious.

  2. Anon E Mouse

    Rory – No wonder those dishonest tree hugging climate change nut jobs had to stop calling it global warming with the weather like this…

    I blame Rupert Read for so much hot air last year unbalancing the climate…

  3. Alan W

    I’m probably tempting fate by saying this, but thus far I seem to have avoided all the “travel chaos” I keep hearing about, despite having spent the festive period up in Scotland, where most of the worst of the weather’s been.

    Train journeys from London to Edinburgh and back went smoothly, with only minor delays on the return leg, which given we were travelling through blizzards much of the way, it seems churlish to complain about. The numerous buses I used up in Edinburgh seemed to be running normally with all the main roads well gritted.

    Admittedly there have been problems with icy pavements, but hearing folk bleating on that the council hasn’t gritted their garden path, always reminds me of The Simpsons episode where Homer stands for, and wins, the role of garbage comissioner, running on the tempting slogan “Can’t somebody else do it?”

    Perhaps I’ve just been incredibly fortunate in timing my journeys, but I do feel the current whingefest is way over done. Sustained periods of cold weather like this are bound to cause some disruption, especially in countries like the UK where they don’t happen very often.

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  5. Eurostar, Too.

    Does it really matter who is to blame, as long as the country doesn’t grind to a halt? We should try and fix it, not fuss over the several inches of snow that nature(!) decided to chuck out. Like the Eurotrain services, for example, everyone was baying for blood, and they’ve only been reduced, which seems to be common sense for people’s safety to be honest. I think people should just check the Ebbsfleet, and indeed the station websites as they do give out all the info.

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