Saturday, 16 January 2010

County Council Thankful for the Weather

Friday 15th January

The rise in temperature, that is.

You the taxpayers, through the administration of the County Council, provide us members with a BlackBerry Wireless Device. These devices are effectively hand held laptops with a phone function, and while I personally use an iPhone - which actually I prefer owing to the applications and operating system - it is extremely useful to be able to be accessible on the move. Particularly when these days people are increasingly using emails to communicate.

During the last fortnight's snow, I might almost have used the heat produced by the device from the many, many emails received by both residents, county officers and members in respect of the whole gritting and salt bins question, to melt much of the snow. While I managed to respond to most, I did direct most enquiries to the blog here and to the CC website where for information, but it was clear that on the ground at least that the authority was lacking in certain areas.

Clearly, the lack of grit proved to be an insurmountable problem.
The LGA (Local Government Association) - the association that represents local councils - advised central government in October that stocks were low and yet no-body actioned anything until December, when salt was ordered.
But of course not enough.
The stocks that the County did have were then further fettered by a government keen to redistribute, which means that not only salt bins and P2 routes have suffered with a lack of supply that would enable gritting, but also P1s and even some 'A' roads were omitted.

Fortunately, the County just about managed to meet its statutory obligations: the fleet of gritters continued to salt the county’s 'A' roads and routes to those hospitals with accident and emergency departments, and indeed to schools where examinations were being taken.
But notwithstanding that, with the salt bins, P2's and even some P1's being abandoned, we had a local situation here with entire residential estates cut off for days, doctor's surgeries inaccessible and a system that failed to replenish sand stocks even after that update appeared upon the County Council website.

This simply is not good enough.

I shall therefore be directing a similar report to Ian Lake, SCC Transport Portfolio Holder in order to determine specifically the rationale that led to a change in road and salt bin prioritisation last year and what specifically the council will do to ensure that a similar situation does not arise next time. I'm particularly concerned by the fact that our village communities seemed marooned, while other areas within Surrey were not so.

Similarly, I shall be asking Chris Rowbotham, SHBC Built Environment Portfolio Holder about the Borough responsibility for footway clearing.

I imgaine that both answers are likely to be budgetary, but if other rural counties suffering with similar supply can get it right, then why can't we?

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