Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Councillors meet with Highways officers over gritting mayhem

I, together with a number of other Southport councillors, met with senior Council officers today to try and get answers on why there has been such poor performance locally in clearing main roads and town centre pavements of snow and ice.

The councillors including both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives asked a wide range of questions about the Council's response to the severe weather including why no snow ploughs were sent to the main roads in Southport, why Chapel Street and Lord Street were left like ice rinks, why the large snow fall didn't appear to be classed as an emergency, why there was a delay in redeploying staff  to clearing pavements, for full details on the activities of the gritting vehicles and many more. 

I will try to detail the answers in another post shortly but I must give one answer to a question which many people have been asking - Sefton did not sell or give any grit to Liverpool Council.

The Officers will be providing a report at next weeks Southport Area Committee meeting (5th January at 6:30pm at Southport town Hall)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

When the going gets tough

Last year a number of people spoke to me about the possibility of being sued if they cleared the snow and ice from the pavement outside their homes. In fact, the "You and Yours" program on Radio 4 actually did a report on this very subject.  So given the situation we now find ourselves in I am pleased to pass on some information I have received from the Government courtesy of the North Meols Civic Society

There's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home or from public spaces. It's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you havecleared it carefully. Follow the snow code when clearing snow and ice safely.

The snow code - tips on clearing snow and ice from pavements or public spaces

Prevent slips

Pay extra attention to clear snow and ice from steps and steep pathways - you might need to use more salt on these areas. If you clear snow and ice yourself, be careful - don’t make the pathways more dangerous by causing them to refreeze. But don’t be put off clearing paths because you’re afraid someone will get injured.
Remember, people walking on snow and ice have responsibility to be careful themselves. Follow the advice below to make sure you clear the pathway safely and effectively.

Clear the snow or ice early in the day

It’s easier to move fresh, loose snow rather than hard snow that has packed together from people walking on it. So if possible, start removing the snow and ice in the morning. If you remove the top layer of snow in the morning, any sunshine during the day will help melt any ice beneath. You can then cover the path with salt before nightfall to stop it refreezing overnight.

Use salt or sand - not water

If you use water to melt the snow, it may refreeze and turn to black ice. Black ice increases the risk of injuries as it is invisible and very slippery. You can prevent black ice by spreading some salt on the area you have cleared. You can use ordinary table or dishwasher salt - a tablespoon for each square metre you clear should work. Don’t use the salt found in salting bins - this will be needed to keep the roads clear.
Be careful not to spread salt on plants or grass as it may cause them damage. If you don’t have enough salt, you can also use sand or ash. These won’t stop the path icing over as well as salt, but will provide good grip under foot.

Take care where you move the snow

When you’re shovelling snow, take care where you put it so it doesn’t block people’s paths or drains. Make sure you make a path down the middle of the area to be cleared first, so you have a clear surface to walk on. Then shovel the snow from the centre of the path to the sides.

Offer to clear your neighbours’ paths

If your neighbour will have difficulty getting in and out of their home, offer to clear snow and ice around their property as well. Check that any elderly or disabled neighbours are alright in the cold weather. If you’re worried about them, contact your local council.

Wrong kind of Snow !

Many many residents have contacted me to express their shock and dismay that the roads and footpaths show absolutely no improvement almost a week after the snow fell.

I have asked officers from the Highways Team to attend the Southport Area Committee meeting on the 5th January to report on how they have handled the current situation and to answer questions from councillors and residents. 

I am sure that the current procedures and protocols used may be adequate to deal with frost or light snow fall but I think they need to be reviewed in light of this the second year of heavy snow fall.

Any review must also recognise the demographics of the population in Southport specifically the large number of elderly people who have in effect been housebound since the cold weather arrived.  I will also be asking why the main shopping areas are almost impassable in what is the busiest period in the run up to Christmas.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Southport Courts set to close

Southport Magistrates and County Courts are set to close as a result of recent review which looked at court usage and costs.  This is despite John Pugh MP and Cllr Sue McGuire, together with local lawyers, submitting arguments against the proposed closure which cited inaccurate facts given about the status of the Courts and the distance people would have to travel for justice.

"I am disappointed that the final decision has been taken to close the court here in Southport. I worry that this will have an impact on the number of cases going trial since it may well be that witnesses will be forced to travel on the same train as the defendant or the defendants family. It is quite possible to see witnesses leaving the train if faced with the possibility of travelling with the defendant or defendants family. In many cases it may be that the witnesses chose not to testify at all rather than face any chance of possible intimidation. Similar arguments can also be made in the cases of domestic violence and family court cases."

John Pugh MP has written to Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary, following this closure announcement questioning the decisions to continue to seek additional magistrates court capacity in Liverpool and close down a purpose built magistrate court in Southport.