Met Office Issue Severe Weather Warning for Stoke-on-Trent

The Met Office has today [Wednesday] issued a severe weather warning that includes a 60% risk of disruption for Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire.

The warning is for heavy snow and was issued at 11.49am today and is valid through to 18.00hrs Friday.

Snow showers will become increasingly frequent and heavy across Scotland, Northern Ireland and north Wales by the end of Thursday and will then extend south to the rest of Wales and southwest and central areas of England into Friday. Eastern coastal counties will also see snow showers for a time until early on Friday. Accumulations of 5 to 10 cm are expected in general, but with possibly 20 cm in places by Friday evening. Snow will be accompanied by strong north or northwesterly winds leading to some drifting.

This is expected to cause disruption to travel networks.

Please be aware of this if you are planning journeys either by car or by public transport.

Let’s hope that this is something that the weathermen/women get wrong.

Binbags left uncollected for a month

Some of Stoke’s bins are still awaiting collection ““ since before the Christmas celebrations.

In Hanley, binbags have been left outside properties for three weeks, because the nature of the streets prevents the use of enclosed wheelie bins.

So residents have been forced to pile up their waste in front of their houses while they await the eventual next collection.

Some of the streets in the Northwood area still rely on putting council bags at the front of their properties because the houses are built on steep ground, meaning steps at the rear of properties would be dangerous to tackle with a wheelie bin. And due to the nature of the terraces being built directly onto the street, bins cannot be placed in front of them either.

While the bags were piled up during the snowy sub zero period of the last couple of weeks, it was obvious that bin collectors were unable to get to the bags, however, since last week’s thaw, the mounds of household waste have grown, and defrosted, leaving residents worried about rats, while cats and other animals break into them and make an unhygienic mess on the pavement in the morning.

Residents are hoping that an end to their misery is imminent, but are disappointed that nothing was done to alleviate the problem sooner.

Have you had problems with your refuse collections over this exceptional period of bad weather?

British Waterways Say Stay ‘SAFE’

British Waterways Say Stay ‘SAFE’ And Don’t Slip Up On Icy Towpaths

The historic waterways around the city can look particularly picturesque on crisp winter days, with Christmas-card perfect frosty scenes and with some freezing over altogether. British Waterways is reminding visitors that the cold weather brings its own particular hazards and is calling on people to take extra care during this cold spell.

Towpaths, bridges and lock-sides can be particularly slippery at this time of year and snow can conceal trip hazards such as boat mooring rings close to the water’s edge. Frozen waterways may look idyllic but can be very dangerous, and visitors should never attempt to walk on the ice. This is particularly important with activities involving young children such as feeding the ducks, while dog walkers should also be aware of the dangers. British Waterways’ message for visitors is to stay SAFE by Staying Away From the Edge.

Peter Wade, safety adviser at British Waterways, explains, ‘The canals and rivers are beautiful places to visit in the winter and there’s nothing better than a stroll along the towpath to walk off some of the festive season’s excesses. It is vital however that people take particular care to avoid turning a gentle walk into a miserable visit to A&E or worse. Children should be accompanied by an adult when they visit a waterway and should be made aware of the potential hazards, and we urge all visitors to stay safely away from the edge.’

Police & Fire Services Issue Winter Safety Warnings

Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have issued safety warnings to remind people of the dangers of playing on frozen ponds & canals.

On Tuesday Police were called to Holden Lake, at Holden Bridge, opposite the Horn and Trumpet after a concerned member of the public had called after spotting four children playing on the small lake.

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said ‘We are urging parents to keep a close eye on their children as the cold snap continues to take hold. Make sure you know where your children are. What can appear as harmless fun could lead to something very serious if ice breaks.’

Staffordshire Fire & Rescue spokesman said, ‘Unfortunately we have also seen an increase in incidents on frozen lakes and pools, particularly on days when schools have been closed. Frozen lakes and pools are not playgrounds and we’d urge parents to explain this to their children. At the moment the water in lakes and ponds is of a dangerously low temperature and if people fall through the ice they will quickly get into difficulty because the cold water is a real shock to the system.’

And continued, ‘Newcastle and Tamworth stations both have water rescue units, which include inflatable walkways for use on ice, however this shouldn’t detract from the point that people shouldn’t risk their lives by playing on the ice.’

They went on to give this advice, ‘If you see someone, or a pet, fall through the ice and get into difficulty never try and rescue them yourself instead ring 999 and ask for the Fire Service immediately.’

Staffordshire Police also asked for common sense when coming across children or youths throwing snow balls. ‘Is it really a matter for the police?

BUT don’t confuse damage to property/personal injury with winter fun. Throwing snow balls at passing vehicles or windows is dangerous and could lead to prosecution.’

Staffordshire Police Snow Warning

Motorists are being advised to take care as further snowfall is expected in Staffordshire later today.

As the weather continues to deteriorate there is potential for disruption on the county’s road network. In snow or icy conditions, motorists are advised to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary. If you have to drive please check weather forecasts before you set off. Listen to local and national radio for travel information.

Les Dyble, the force’s traffic management officer, said “Whilst the best advice when severe weather hits is to stay off the road, if you have to drive then following these simple tips could prevent you getting into trouble.”

Follow these common sense tips

Prepare your vehicle for the journey. Take extra warm clothes, food and a flask of hot drink. Wellington boots, a torch and a spade could also prove useful. Carry a screen scraper and de-icer, clear mirrors and windows both inside and out are essential. Ensure that all your vehicle lights are working before leaving.

Adjust your driving to the conditions. Drive slowly and leave extra room to stop.

Maintain a safe distance behind all other vehicles especially snow ploughs/service vehicles. Do not attempt unnecessary overtakes. Use dipped headlights.

Dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous. Keep a pair of sunglasses handy.

Be aware of other road users, especially pedestrians, cyclists and those children that may be playing in and with the snow.

As a security precaution, don’t leave your car running unattended when defrosting it.

Think and plan in advance, is your journey really necessary.

Staffordshire Police, like all other emergency services, deal with a high number of extra calls during inclement weather conditions and we have to prioritise incidents. Their vehicles are affected by the weather conditions too, which, along with the volume of calls, may affect response times.

Please remember only dial 999 in an emergency

To Grit Or Not To Grit

How appropriate that just as we have the first cold snap of the winter period the City Council proposes to slash the number of roads that are gritted by nearly half, to save £100,000 per year. At a meeting on Wednesday, finance officers responded to councillors concerns with the well rehearsed line, “We are going to have to make some tough choices this year!”.

We. WE!

To City Council officers these are just costings; lines on a budget sheet. Councillors have to make the tough decisions on the budget ““ we will be the ones held to account by the public while they carry on sitting in their cosy offices picking up their fat pay cheques.

Meanwhile, the biggest losers will be the public, footing the bill.

Ross Irving, said:

“Protect public services from the need to cut the budget due to the recession.”

Well what are the consequences of cutting the gritting budget in half ““ reducing the coverage of roads from 46% down to 25%?

In pure logistical terms the cut will mean all bus routes off the main roads will not be treated, according to a senior officer with responsibility for responsive highways maintenance. It will also mean some main road in Stoke-on-Trent (A and B roads) will also not be gritted. Not side streets but the main arteries of the City.

For Stoke-on-Trent as a whole it will mean no buses on estates, stranding workers, school children and pensioners in their own homes. If we have a prolonged cold snap this could be very serious particularly for pensioners.

It will mean in severe weather, gridlock like we have never seen it before, untreated main roads, increased likelihood of accidents with potential fatal results.

What cost then to the City to save £100,000 per year. Wages lost to low paid staff unable to get into work. Business lost through lack of customers and missed deliveries. These are just some results and I am sure there are many, many more.

A simple, innocent looking single line in a budget cutting report. A torrent of negative consequences.

Just one more reason why every single proposed cut needs to be put under the spotlight and thoroughly scrutinised ““ not just given a tick with the stroke of a pen and a pat on the back.

Cold Weather On The Way Are The Council Prepared?

With the first real cold snap of winter forecast for later this week, we were reminded of previous winters where the city ground to a halt due to lack of gritting or indeed last winter when the council along with many others across the country all but ran out of grit.

I asked the council what the current situation was.

The City council currently has a stockpile of some 2500 tonnes of salt across it’s three depots, Booth Street, Cromer Road and Federation Road. Two further orders of 100 tonnes each due to be delivered in by the end of the week. This represents an extra 1000 tonnes compared to last year.

48 tonnes of salt have also been deposited in the network of 350 self help salt bins around the city.

How many times will this allow gritters to go out?

The current stockpile will allow allow around 100 treatments of the road network for ice while treatments for snow would reduce this to around 50 times.

Do the Council Know How Many Miles Of Roads They are Responsible For?

Asking these questions of the council raised a few anomalies.

According to the information we received from the Highways Department, they treat 428 kilometres (266 Miles) of roads which is 46% of the city road network. Our calculations make this 578 miles of road in total.
The Council website says they are responsible for 850 kilometres (528 miles) of roads.
The council website says they treat 550 miles (855 Kilometres) of roads.

The questions to be asked are:

How many miles of road are the council actually responsible for?
How many miles of road do the council actually grit?

While searching for information for this I found this in the agenda for this afternoons Economic Development and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting: There is a proposal to reduce the number of roads gritted as part of the proposed £45m savings.
We currently grit 37% of all our routes. Option is to reduce this to 25%. We would commence the reduction from autumn 2010

37% being cited in the report to go in front of the committee is somewhat different from the 46% of the roads we were told were gritted. Is this another case of the officers not telling the elected members the actual facts?