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News - 27 June 2010

Working round the snow

Severe weather conditions may well become the norm if our efforts to address the issues leading to climate change are not stepped up. In the meantime it is imperative that we introduce new measures to ease the hazards caused by severe winters.

The extensive disruption in Brighton caused by the severe snow and ice over the Christmas and New Year period caused a reduction in footfall of 40%, which had a devastating effect on takings for retailsers (especially those without internet backup).

The council has recognised the need to take a close look at its sytems and services to see if affordable improvements can be made.

A cross-party scrutiny panel of councillors has reviewed how the council and other partners responded and how the authority might be better prepared to deal with extreme weather in the future.

Making a number of recommendations the panel has suggested changes and increased flexibility to working practices, including support for call-centre and gritting staff, as well as increased coordination between organisations in identifying and treating problem areas.

Investment in a more modern fleet of gritting vehicles, a review of gritting routes, establishment of ‘ drop-off ’ gritting points and better communication with residents were also supported by the panel.

Councillor Warren Morgan , Chair of the scrutiny panel said, ‘We’ve come up with a number of recommendations designed to increase the capacity of council services at key times, provide residents with more information as to what’s happening, and we are asking for investment in more up-to-date equipment. We’re trying to make it easier for residents who are able to help themselves to do so, whilst also increasing support offered by the council.’

It’s always going to be a balancing act between being prepared for severe weather and not committing too many resources to contingencies which may only occur infrequently. Our report will present the Cabinet with a number of options; it’s for them then to prioritise investment.’

The scrutiny review into the Winter Service Plan will be reported to the Environment and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 21st June. The Panel membership was Councillors Warren Morgan, Sven Rufus, Tony Janio and David Watkins .

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