In the middle of a prolonged hot spell, snow is not on many people’s minds. But it was on the mind of Shropshire Council’s Place Overview committee yesterday when it met to discuss how the council responds to snow emergencies. Among the plans are a pilot snow warden scheme.
I began calling for snow wardens in 2013. In May this year, Shropshire Council accepted a cross party motion asking the council to look into the case for a warden scheme. Now it looks like we can get on with it in preparation for the next cold winter.
In it’s Winter Service Operational Plan (item 7 on this agenda), the council says:
- Snow Volunteers
36.1. A pilot scheme will be implemented and trailed for winter 2019 / 2020, for members of the public to apply. The scheme in essence will provide training, grit, and the council’s liability insurance will provide insurance cover for those trained and working appropriately. Work with the council’s insurance team, learning from other authorities whom deliver similar schemes will be on going, for example Devon County Council.
36.2. A working group of officers from Highways, Insurance, communications will be developed with a time line of the scheme being piloted for next year’s winter service, and then subject to feedback opening access to this scheme.
This was welcomed by Councillor Julian Dean, who formally proposed the snow warden motion at May’s council meeting and by myself.
At last we are getting on with the job. Some people talk of halcyon days when the council cleared pavements of snow. In my recollection, that rarely happened on side roads and estates. When the council did clear minor roads, the snow had been on the ground a long time. Even if my recollection, based on Northampton where I grew up, wasn’t the general experience, there is no possibility of getting Shropshire Council to clear anything other than high street pavements anytime soon.
Shropshire Council’s highways department had a £5 million cut this year. It will cut the budget by a further £5 million next year. Although the portfolio holder for transport has said he wants to fight the cuts, he voted for them in cabinet and council. The council says it hopes to reinstate the highways budget once money becomes available from the Shrewsbury shopping centres it now owns, along with IT improvements and refurbishment of Shirehall. So, it needs to fly three pigs at once. I am not holding my breath.
That means we must do more to help ourselves. That’s why we are backing a snow warden scheme.
There is more to do. We need better cooperation between town councils that have direct labour forces and Shropshire Council. In a snow emergency, all public officials and the community need to work together.
That didn’t happen in Ludlow over the winter. A request from Ludlow Town Council for a free tonne of salt from Shropshire Council for the market was rejected because its long standing refusal to work alongside the county highways team clearing other public areas.
Our Shropshire Council motion agreed in May called for “the chief executive to draw up and pursue the use of a model protocol for partnership working with town and parish councils to enable a joined-up service to improve the treatment and clearing of footways during snow and ice events across the county.”
We’ll be pursuing that over the next few months.