And still the snow falls! Just when it seems that the big thaw will begin, we wake to find more snow has fallen during the early hours. In common with other local councillors up and down the country, my mailbox and mobile phone have been red hot with residents asking when their grit bins will be refilled.
But the truth is, in most cases the grit bins are being emptied for the wrong reasons. The grit is often taken by locals to clear their own drives; in one case a couple didn’t even have a front drive, but took half a bin full of grit to clear the barbecue deck at the rear of their house. Even more cynical are the gangs of cowboys who shovel the salt onto their trucks, then knock on residents’ doors and charge for clearing their drives with the very materials that their council tax has paid for in the first place! I’m reliably informed that, on average, the amount of salt which is actually used for the purpose intended is only around five percent.
With just sixty six gritter lorries for the whole county, Kent County Council – with the help of district councils and a range of other partners – has done really well under the circumstances, and major roads have in the main remained relatively clear through this appalling weather. Kent has done better than many other areas in obtaining and efficiently using salt supplies at this difficult time. It’s doubly hard of course when local councils do manage to order more supplies of road salt, as the Government’s ‘salt cell’ invokes special powers which enable it to commandeer those supplies for diversion elsewhere.
But as Abraham Lincoln once said, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time” and there will always be those who think it should have been done better. Of course, there are learning points and certainly the systems and process will evolve, but until we have some of the same legislation as other countries who suffer from regular freezing conditions, we just have to do the best we can.