Headlines: February 3rd, 2009

Local authorities have hit back at claims that they are at fault for disruption to services caused by the severe weather. The Local Government Association said councils had been made a scapegoat and claims that they were to blame should be treated with ‘a huge pinch of gritting salt’.

Councillor Paul Bettison, who chairs the LGA’s Environment Board said councils had been working round the clock using snow ploughs, gritters and teams of staff to keep roads and pavements clear. Each gritting run, he said, cost around 17 thousand pounds and used 220 tonnes of salt in about three hours.

“Other organisations that are affected by the snow appear to be using councils as a scapegoat for their own poor preparations for the weather. The claim that it is local authorities’ fault that they cannot run services needs to treated with a huge pinch of gritting salt,” he said. Councillor Bettison said the country was facing its worst winter weather for almost 20 years and councils were battling not just to keep roads open but also to keep vulnerable older people safe and to inform parents when schools were closed.

“Swathes of the country are being hit by up to six inches of snow and hundreds of council workers are gritting pavements and roads. But with snow continuing to fall staff are facing an uphill battle to try and make sure that roads and pavements are kept clear,” he said.

The LGA listed detailed examples of just what councils around the country were doing. It included Greenwich, where gritting teams had been in action since 7.30 on Sunday morning, Gateshead where 400 council workers were clearing snow, Staffordshire, which had deployed some of its twenty tractor mounted snow blowers and 140 snow blades and Bournemouth where the council was using 15 teams to grit roads manually.