Jo has slammed East Dunbartonshire Council for its failure to deal with winter weather conditions in recent weeks.
In a letter this week, Jo has called on the Council to conduct a full investigation into its response to snow which has covered the roads and pavements over the holiday period. Many roads have been left ungritted due to poor planning and a lack of salt supplies, and despite the apparent danger the Council was unavailable for contact from Christmas Eve until 5th January except in emergencies.
The icy roads prevented many people from travelling, with many effectively stuck in their homes, impacting on local business and potentially increasing the burden on A&E wards. Jo Swinson is asking the Council who was in charge over Christmas and why there was no change of plans to deal with the situation when it became clear that the weather posed a severe threat. She has also criticised the Council for providing incorrect contact details on its website.
Commenting, Jo said:
“It was clear before Christmas that the snow was going to cause problems – town centres across East Dunbartonshire were icy and ungritted while people were doing their Christmas shopping. Yet East Dunbartonshire Council still closed down for almost two weeks over the holiday and was virtually uncontactable.
“There is no evidence that the Council had a plan in place to ensure the safety of its residents in the event of icy weather, which is why I am calling for a full investigation into what happened. It is appalling that people should be faced with a choice over the Christmas period of either staying in their homes or risking their health by going out.”
The text of Jo’s letter to the Council appears below:
Mr Gerry Cornes
East Dunbartonshire Council
Tom Johnston House
5 January 2010
Dear Mr Cornes,
Road and pavement conditions in East Dunbartonshire
Many of my constituents have contacted me regarding the condition of East Dunbartonshire’s roads and pavements during this period of very cold weather. It is clear that many have been left ungritted over the holiday period and this neglect has had a significant impact on local people and businesses.
East Dunbartonshire Council’s planning for this well-forecasted cold snap, and its response to it, has been inadequate at best. Even the most optimistic observer would acknowledge that many roads in the area are virtually impassable and most pavements are perilous. I have spoken to numerous people who have been left housebound since before Christmas due to the Council’s inability to properly respond to winter weather.
The snowfall has not been exceptional and while temperatures have been consistently below freezing, it is totally unacceptable that people cannot leave their homes for fear of serious injury. Local businesses are losing trade as people are not confident of walking into our town centres. Local hospital A&E departments are at risk of being stretched by those injured by falls on the ice. Residents are being put at unnecessary risk by East Dunbartonshire Council’s inadequate response to the situation.
The problem has been exacerbated by East Dunbartonshire Council’s apparent shutting down of all non-emergency contact from 24 December to 5 January. I personally telephoned several times over the Christmas period to report dangerous roads and spent a significant amount of time trying to get through. Even on days which were not public holidays I had difficulty, and many of my constituents have faced similar problems in trying to access your services.
Further to the inadequacy of your telephone services, one of the published email addresses I attempted to contact in relation to refuse collection was obviously incorrect as my email was returned undelivered. You may wish to conduct a review into the effectiveness and accessibility of your telephone and email services, and published contact details.
The condition of the roads and pavements points to a significant failure of East Dunbartonshire Council’s winter planning, emergency planning and road maintenance regime. Given the scale of the problems, I believe a full and prompt investigation is required into how the Council has responded to the winter weather conditions over the past few weeks.
I would be grateful if you could address the following issues:
• who was in charge of co-ordinating the Council’s emergency operations over the Christmas holiday period;
• why there was no change to winter maintenance and gritting plans when the situation was apparently becoming more serious;
• why the Council was effectively closed down except for emergencies from 24 December to 5 January and;
• why there was no proper planning for winter road salt supplies or staff cover for the holiday period when it was abundantly clear that exceptionally cold conditions were imminent.
As you may be aware, the low temperatures are set to continue for the foreseeable period and action must be taken to have the roads and pavements made safe for drivers and pedestrians as a matter of urgency.
Many thanks for your consideration of this matter and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Jo Swinson MP