Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Damned if they do and damned if they don't

Once again a comment to the Gurn finds itself elevated to article status. Here's a comment received yesterday by 'Thank you' on another post:

The current prolonged cold snap has certainly caused a good stooshie with regard our ice and snow covered streets and pavements, with no let up in the current weather conditions in sight.
I for one, and perhaps I’m the only one would like to thank all the people who have worked so hard to try and keep our roads open in recent weeks. It’s been no easy task as has been seen by the number of gritting vehicles who themselves have become casualties and slid off our roads, fortunately no one involved in these operations has been reported as seriously hurt.
Joe public it seems has been outraged and angry that cash strapped councils have not thrown more of our money at the problem. Whilst it may be desirable to have squads of specially trained snow clearing workers ready to roll out at the drop of a snow flake, I would suggest that in monetary terms councils would get hung if they made this sort of expenditure, what would the crack snow clearing team do for the rest of the year?
In general councils have managed to keep main roads open. These are our main arteries when it comes to receiving goods, getting to work, etc and in general I have found all the ones I’ve had to use perfectly OK when driving with due care and attention. Getting to my car and then onto a main road has on some days been challenging, but with good footwear and careful driving I have managed.
The alternative that some people are asking for is a much more extensive gritting of side roads and pavements. Whilst this would undoubtedly be desirable I just cannot see that the council could justify the cost. On some days snowfalls are every few hours and with hard frosts at night pavements and side roads would require several applications of grit in any given twenty-four hours. Ignoring the manpower costs, Highland Council is using roughly £56,000 worth of salt per day to keep main routes open, I cannot begin to calculate even the material costs involved in trying to grit every public way in the region. Note: I’m calculating salt costs at £28 per tonne; it could be a little more or less than this.
With a Council Tax freeze there isn’t a way our council or any council for that matter can find money for the extra winter costs other than by cutting another service, and with the salt bill running to around £400,000 a week that is an awful lot of our money it has to find.
There are no easy answers and I’m sure Highland Council would very much like to provide a better service when it comes to the extent of its gritting.
Just in case you are wondering I don’t work for the council but live in Nairn and as I said at the beginning of this gurn wanted to thank the people who have worked over the holiday period to keep so many of our roads open!
As for future winter policy for Scottish councils that it up to us at the next elections. A continued freeze on council taxes, or do you want to pay a lot more so that the next bad winter is not quite so harsh to endure?

UPDATE: meanwhile in the other Royal Burgh...

'Council’s gritting ‘not good enough’
Tain and Easter Ross councillor says lack of road maintenance has left locals marooned at home.

Tain and Easter Ross Independent councillor Alasdair Rhind has lost patience with Highland Council’s ploughing and gritting in his ward.
He said: “I spoke with transport director Neil Gillies to be told, ‘We’ve done our best’.

“Frankly, they haven’t done their best, and here we are with people stranded in their homes because of the snow.'

Update 11.52 Thurs:
Debate about the merits of the HC salting regime could very soon become academic if we take the First Minister at his word:

'First Minister Alex Salmond said the cold spell was the worst since the notorious winter of 1962-63 and warned that Scotland had just 45,000 tonnes of salt and grit left.
He said the supply – enough for 10 days in a regular winter – would have to be kept for main routes, leaving side roads and residential streets untreated.'


Anonymous said...

'In general councils have managed to keep main roads open'

The council doesn't grit the A96 that is the responsibility of the Scottish Government.

Mags said...

I agree and would also like to thank those involved for doing a very good job.

Anonymous said...

A big thanks should go to council Manager George Blackhall who worked tirelessly through the holidays with his wee snow plough and gritter doing the footpaths. He seemed to be on his own and even though criticism is rife, George did a great job. There's a pint waiting for you in the Westers.

Anonymous said...

Aye,you will have to pay for it though.

Anonymous said...

"I for one, and perhaps I’m the only one would like to thank all the people who have worked so hard to try and keep our roads open in recent weeks. It’s been no easy task..."

Well said, that original poster, you are not the only one who wants to say thanks. Too often, people are quick to blame and slow to praise.

We all ought to give credit to those who have been out working on the roads in the dark and freezing cold (while the rest of us are inside and warm). They have done a tremendous job in exceptionally tough conditions.

The rest of us also need to get away from the notion that the nanny state (or the nanny Council) will somehow solve every problem if we wail loudly enough. Snow happens: live with it!

Anonymous said...

Yes, a big thank you to the people who are out doing the actual gritting. No one is attacking them, they are doing their jobs as well as they can given the contstraints they are under. But here are a few examples of the reality we are living in.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was the first day that many footpaths saw a drop of salt/grit in Queenspark.

Older people are scared to leave their houses because of the treacherous conditions.

Not everyone has cars and have no option but to walk/slide/fall.

While having a conversation outside a town centre shop across from the Courthouse yesterday, we saw three people slipping and falling. Does this mean that the NHS are picking up the tab for the gritting shortfall?

Do you have to be specially trained to clear pavements?

It is now nearly three weeks since we have had this weather, enough time for more than the main arteries to be dealt with?

Grit spotted Holly said...

A Gang of Council workmen have been spotted in the Merryton area Gritting the pavements. 2 supervisors standing doing nothing, 1 van driver and 4 labourers! They were using shovels. I presume they have done their Safety certificate in using these devices as we know the dangers of council workmen using these devices. Do you think that someone showed them where the on off switch was on these things.

Here is a thought for you though. What about taking a leaf out of Strathclyde Community service and getting those that have to do community service scraping the ice of off OAP Pathways?

Anonymous said...

God I'm so sick of reading Gurn's about this spell of adverse weather and the inconvenience of it all.

I say - winter comes every year -
sometimes mild - somtimes severe - just like all the other seasons.

This is Scotland and not Dubai - so
please get on with it and smile..!

Believe me - the Council workmen will too when they get thier wage packet for all the inconvience they suffered.

Graisg said...

@ anon 11.31

Here's one not for you. It was in the P&J yesterday and now is available on line. A wifie in Edinburgh has written a wall to wall gurn about councils, salt and snow:
How dare they take our council tax and leave us stranded

Extreme gurning perhaps or with just cause? The debate could go on for ever.

Anonymous said...

I too would like to thank the council workers who have been out trying to make things easier for us. Thank you

ak-a said...

A big thank-you to both the organisation (Highland Council) and the individuals who have kept things mostly running. Having lived and worked in different areas of the country, things work much better here than elsewhere.