Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Brighton Council must make it easier for city residents to help each other out in the snow and ice

The two cold 'snaps' we've seen over the last month or so have brought much of the city to a standstill. The economic and social costs have been enormous - the hospital has been overwhelmed by the victims of thousands of accidents, roads have been closed, buses cancelled, schools and universities shut, rubbish collections abandoned, and so on. 

On this 'blog, and elsewhere, I have argued that the Tory-run council could have done a little more to help residents stay safe and warm - and keep public service disruption to a minimum. That all costs money, I have argued, and the council could - and should - have spent a little more on the problem.

The fact that the post-Christmas spell was handled so much better than the pre-Christmas one was to be welcomed, of course, but just proved how the council could have done better in the first place. It's not as though the weather conditions weren't widely predicted - they were!

The Greens were quick to call for a full investigation into the council's response to the cold weather - and how it could be improved next time. I'm delighted to say Labour councillors have agreed to the proposal, and so a so-called 'scrutiny panel' is likely to be set up to carry out the investigation at tyhe next meeting of the Environment and Community safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee on February 8th.

Meanwhile - it looks like it could happen all over again. More snow is forecast for the UK, though latest predictions are for us to have none here in Brighton. Of course, that could change over the coming hours.

So today the Green Party has called on the council to do more to help residents help themselves: to draw up 'community snow plans', to install more, well-stocked,  grit bins, to provide 'community spades' to householders wishing to clear the ice outside their own homes, and to maintain registers of residents who are willing to help, either by making pavements safe or by checking on elderly or vulnerable neighbours.

Many people were ready to clear pavements and help in other ways in the recent bad weather, but there was no way of coordinating their efforts. In addition, in Kemp Town and Queen's Park many local residents don’t have gardens and they will need to be supplied with spades, if they are to help.

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