Tough luck. That’s the message from Croydon Council if we have a bad winter.
As commuters battle their way home through what’s left of Hurricane Gonzalo, winter seems to be with us already. Snow and ice cannot be too far away…
However, if you live on a suburban road in the south of the borough or you are a pensioner prone to be unsteady on your pins on an icy pavement, don’t expect much help from your friendly council.
Under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, as amended in 2003, councils should ensure as far as is reasonably practicable that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice. A Code of Practice urges local highway authorities to produce, and formally approve and adopt, policies and priorities for winter service.
On Monday night, the council’s cabinet meeting, without much of a discussion or debate, nodded through a winter maintenance operation plan in which, even before the clocks go back, they pretty much said that Croydon won’t be able to cope with icy conditions this winter.
In the winter “service” plan, the council states, “The policy recognises that given the scale of financial and other resources involved in delivering the Winter Service, it is not practically possible to provide the service on all parts of the highway network, neither is it possible to satisfy the requirements of all those wishing to use the highway.”
You can see the document in full here: Winter_maintenance_operation_plan
It seems that for the now Labour-run council, it’s really all too much of an effort to get the streets made safe in winter. Either that, or Kathy Bee, Labour’s cabinet member responsible, has checked a bit of seaweed in her garden and is confident we will be fortunate to have a mild winter.
Not that the Tories on the opposite side of the Town Hall chamber had much to say in criticism last night, because this latest policy from Labour is the latest piece of cut and paste from old council documents – their own council documents. In early 2009, the then Conservative-run council issued a remarkably similar-looking paper which said, “… this policy recognises that given the scale of financial and other resources involved in delivering the Winter Service, it is not practically possible to provide the service on all parts of the highway network, neither is it possible to satisfy the requirements of all those wishing to use the highway.”
Spot the difference? No, we didn’t, either. There isn’t any.
Inside Croydon’s loyal reader should remember the winter of 2009-2010 quite well, because that’s when a cold snap saw the borough’s roads come to a grinding halt for a number of days and town centre pavements appeared to have been left as ice rinks for pedestrians to slide over on their way to and from work. The pavements at East Croydon Station were not cleared of ice for days on end, such was the incompetence exhibited, while major junctions such as Fiveways and Purley Cross came to a grinding halt.
Working overtime was the council’s press office, which took to social media at the time to assure the public that the gritters were out across the borough – something that was strongly contested at the time. It was all intended to try to spare the blushes of the Tory cabinet member responsible, Phil Thomas.
Pedestrian accidents and injuries soared. For example, around three times as many casualties with fractures, dislocations and sprains were admitted to Mayday Hospital’s accident and emergency department on December 21, 2009, compared to an equivalent non-icy Monday in 2008. Thanks for that, Phil!
Senior citizens in Shirley had to be looked after by neighbours for weeks as it was too treacherous on the street ice. Some older people nearly ran out of food when they were trapped in their homes for days on end.
Similar scenes were played out in November 2010 and January 2013, as the council was either slow to respond or just ill-equipped to deal with what was basically predictable, English winter weather conditions.
With the same policy in place this year, there’s no reason not to expect the same results once the winter weather sets in.
Croydon Council would do well to look at the controversial policy that Durham County Council and the NHS County Durham Primary Care Trust took up from that bad winter in 2009 through to the winter of 2010-2011, with the provision of £1 million over two years from the local NHS for additional winter maintenance budget.
The then Primary Care Trust funding stream was made available in both 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 to cover the revenue and capital costs of additional routes, and was allocated to the provision of extra trailer gritters, footway snow clearance plant and more salt boxes.
Of course, PCTs were abolished in the Tories’ hugely expensive NHS reorganisation under Peter Lansley, in what a Conservative minister admitted last week has been the worst mistake of the government, producing plans that were “unintelligible gobbledygook”.
The intention of the Durham PCT winter funding was an attempt at joined-up government to save money by cutting the number of accidents, which for some elderly were life-changing in terms of their loss of mobility and independence, with all the expensive extra care costs that then fell upon the NHS and council social services.
Perhaps Croydon’s cabinet member for highways could speak to her cabinet colleague counterpart who looks after adult services and to the Mayday hospital board and to the local Clinical Commissioning Group to develop such an approach?
Unfortunately in Croydon, it seems that the £43,339 cabinet member “allowances” only pays for cut-and-paste, rather than innovative policy making.
Of course, after many privitisations of services under Mike “#WadGate” Fisher’s Tories, the council no longer has a big direct labour organisation to call upon to clear street snow in the event of blizzards. Perhaps the Labour group should start planning to change this by bringing the waste contract with Veolia back under its own control?
And if the council truly thinks that it can’t cope with making its streets safe in winter, perhaps it should look at Labour’s “One Nation” ethos or the Conservatives “Big Society” approach and create a Croydon version of the American, German, Austrian and Dutch residents’ self-help duty to clear pavements outside a property.
Among all its various slogans and T-shirts, Labour is supposedly “Ambitious for Croydon”, so maybe there could there be a Labour ambition to create volunteer street champions who look to keep the treacherous ice and snow off local pavements, rather than just waiting for the council to do nothing at all.
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema: Mood Indigo, Oct 23
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- South Norwood Country Park Family Fun Day, Oct 25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- SNATH free film festival, Stanley Halls, Oct 25
- SNATH free film festival, Pawson’s Arms, Oct 26
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- SNATH free film festival, Scratchley Hall, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- SNATH free film festival, Lord Napier, Oct 29
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- SNATH free film festival, Norbury Park tennis club, Oct 30
- NHS free health fair, Central Parade, New Addington, Oct 31
- SNATH free film festival Halloween event, Stanley Halls, Oct 31
- MOPAC policing meeting, Surrey Street, Nov 4
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 4
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Grange Park bulb-planting event, Nov 8
- Brook recording studio open day and party, Nov 9
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Nov 14
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 17
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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