Where did the gritters go?

Snowy wallHere’s my latest column for the Muswell Hill Flyer and the Highgate Handbook:

By the time you read this, I am assuming (hopefully rightly) that the snow has melted and gone and life has returned to normal. But all did not go that well during the two snowfalls – the ones before and after Christmas.

Haringey Council say that they have ‘agreed priorities’ with their contractors on what gritting should happen when it snows. However, those priorities don’t seem to have been met judging by the picture painted by local residents.

I’d been expecting that – as with previous years – Haringey Council would say they had done a good job and residents would say otherwise. So this time round I made sure lots of evidence was gathered in – by emailing out during the first snow fall asking for reports from the people on my email list. (Let me know if you want to sign up to similar emails in future by contacting me on lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org).

I received over 200 emails back with details of each person’s personal experience in their road and they painted a very bleak picture.

Many priority roads (those roads designated to be treated first) were untouched; even where the road surface was done, the pavements of many priority roads were untouched; the side roads were frequently impassable and the majority of the grit bins checked by local councillors Gail Engert and Martin Newton were empty.

It’s a good thing I asked – and people kindly provided so much evidence – because from Haringey Council’s initial response to me it sounded as if Haringey thought all was fine, the contractors had done their job and there was no need to worry. Certainly not – as I was able to point with lists of specific road names where their contractors had not done the work.

It seems to me that if the ‘agreed priorities’ are not actually delivered as agreed then that is a breach of contract. And it would be reassuring to know that Haringey is checking on this rather than me.

Also, although no one expects a local council to be able to grit all the side roads in its area, it should make sure grit supplies are available near residents to grit their own frontages and roads. After all, however clear the main roads are, if you can’t reach them – you’re stuck.

We look enviously at other countries such as the USA and Canada, where each household takes responsibility for clearing their own bit of curb and road. But how can we do that here if there is no supply of grit or salt (even in a pile) in your road? How can you get to the very sparse grit/salt bins that are provided if they are not near where you live and what is the point if they are empty if you do manage to get to them?

And what about the pavements? So many people have accidents during this period. I was in email correspondence with a consultant at the Whittington who said they had 100 snow injured people in just one day.

Surely it must be cost efficient, as well as somewhat more human and considerate, to enable people to help themselves when the weather dumps on us?

So let’s hope that the information provided to Haringey Council enables them to ensure that next time we get a much better service – one where they know what their contractors are really up to and one where residents are given help.

0 thoughts on “Where did the gritters go?

  1. Sadly, this is par for the course. Experience of Haringey and its contracted services over the last several years – whether refuse collection, security or road maintenance – shows that there is almost no effective supervision of contractors or of contractual outcomes.

  2. Lynne as you correctly pointed out that they were no gritters and the rain
    melted the snow away not the gritter contractors appeared down my
    Priority 1 road.

    At least we can all walk safely now and at our normal speeds.

  3. This is local government we’re talking about here, and some departments may have benefited from a previous “generation” of central government changing the law enabling competitive tendering. No point complaining about it because it exists and is now in the rules, but what that has done is highlighted by this entry. some of them don’t know their arses from their elbows when it comes to taking a lead and getting things done, especially when it comes to street care and i’m not surprised in the slightest that this repeated all over London

  4. I live in North View Road, Hornsey. Neither the pavements or the roads were gritted at all over the snow and ice period. The ice did not clear until late last week, and it was extremely dangerous to walk down these roads to the bus stops. Residents in many of these roads have at least a ten minute walk to a bus stop or to get to a main road. For older people it was a nightmare and the possibility of falling and breaking bones was an absolute reality. The gritting in Crouch End streets was really poor, and many of the roads have steep slopes. I thought it was an appalling lack of service.

  5. Hello Lynne,
    Have read your comments re non gritting. Whilst I agree with you I would suggest you chew the b—- of Haringey Council. Do not be diplomatic. tell it as you see it.

    Good luck.

    Ray Blakeley.

  6. your the boss so the buck stops with you . local goverment work for you and you work for us and until that is understood whats the point of complaining. regarding grit i dont think for once that they did a bad job. but other things you are the boss full stop.

  7. Thank goodness the Whittington still has an A & E department – there was no way we could have got to The Royal Free.

  8. Thank goodness the Whittington still has an A & E department – there was no way we could have got to The Royal Free.

  9. There were no gritters because there are no Managers with discretion so the admin are doing as told fascistically from an accountant by following corporate remits and contracts like the GPs .They[ LAs accountants] hold the funds . It has been my idea for many years for the Councillors like shifts to be on hand all the time to deal with discretion and urgent matters. You may also notice they are all [ includes the charities] copying the marketting call centres that are infuriating and a total waste of time and money . Tha same lack of urgency and organisation is also shown in the fatal lack of urgency for Haiti.All those who live on boundaries suffer as noone wants the res[ponsibility. I watched buses failing to climb Crouch Hill . Has Ms Featherbone checked with A&Es how many accidents there were .Why are there no Disability Coordinators surely illegal to have no DUTY OF CARE.

  10. Unsurprisingly, no gritting of ‘lesser’ roads here either – which would have been okay if sufficient provision had been made for the pavements. The very few street grit/salt boxes that are available became empty within hours and were not replenished. Saw umpteen buses stuck on Muswell Hill Road (first day of post Christmas spell) and other vehicles having to literally slalom around them, and could not comprehend why local state schools were shut when (just as local) public ones were not. No need to look to the USA, Canada or even Scandinavia where snow spells truly represent an extreme of weather – taking a leaf out of places that are faced with similar conditions, and a great deal nearer to the UK, could prove quite useful. It snows pretty much every year in the UK – just as it does in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Northern France, etc.. These countries do not come to a complete standstill when that happens, so why does this one? This is not so much a matter of climate as one of practical organisation and bureaucratic mindset. Remaining stubbornly reactive in the face of simple facts is clearly not the way to go about dealing with the potential effect of a moderate (yes, moderate) amount of snow.

  11. My immediate streets, Broadlands Close and Broadlands Road, were not gritted this year whereas they have been in at least some of the recent past years when snow or ice was imminent. I read in the media that councils make a calculated judgment to make a limited investment in gritting and snow clearance on the basis that the low risk in bad conditions is not worth the cost of better provision. Should not they consider the considerable economic loss to both business and country as well as personal inconvenience in their calculations.

  12. It appears this MP sends this info then refuses to help those on a boundary and disabled because she uses a PA misinterpretting protocol to have no discretion . These MPs & Councillors need to do the job elected for not allow PAs on procedures to get away with negligence saying not MP or allow the non gritting of side roads and hills . Then the roads would be gritted as this behaviour is proof that someone surely not intelligent is making decisions directing . An accountant??!!

  13. Do you happen to know how much the contract is worth each year to the gritting company and what % profit they make

  14. the gritting problem is now over unless we have more snow. so i suggest we move on.

  15. Tresa – it isn’t over even though the snow has gone. If I just move on – then next time it snows we will get the same poor response from the council. I will be posting a follow-up on my correspondence with the CEO Haringey over this – as it demonstrates quite clearly why Haringey doesn’t deliver even though local residents pay through the nose for our local services.

  16. I may not be your constituent but Protocol says you should have discretion . No discretion no democracy .How is it I Know and you don’t ? Are we now a fascist regime?You don’t run the country on Call centres [ no disability coordinators] directed by accountants unless you want situations like this and Baby P to occur . Are you in charge? You are never there.

  17. myself I put it politly, that its not the council its local goverment, this use of council word is out of date. becouse using that word makes it seem that you are all seperate. do you know that haringey charges more for virtually everything than most other boroughs and it is populated by some of the most deprived people compared to other boroughs. yet they are the most penalised regarding parking . red tape strangulation of small buseness harsh bullying tactics towards the poorer sections in almost every sphere. that everything is just soft speak in free local goverment magazines but the reality does not match the spin. if you dont know this you should .

  18. Me and my partner did what we always do when there is heavy snow – we shoveled it off our path and sprinkled ordinary household salt, so that we, our neighbours and anyone who called would have safe access. Perhaps there should be a council bylaw to get people to sweep and salt their bit of pavement as well? I think we should do that next time, and I am pleased to say that many of my neighbours and local shopkeepers did just that, without having to use commercial road grit.

  19. when are mps going to show some muscle and deal with matters without long drawn out letters. they should be official warnings to the so called council not beg your pardon will you behave. as your driving my citizens mad as well as fleecing them blind.