Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A whole load of grit!

Darlington's current cold snap, now dragging into day 6, has excited plenty of negative comment from the blogosphere. My blogging LibDem council colleague Mike Barker posts from the "front line" - apparently walkways in the Pedestrian Heart haven't been gritted or cleared for 5 days.

Mike's also been chatting to someone who's been chatting to someone in the Market Hall. There a DBC employee may have said that the reason why no gritting had been done since Friday was because the mobile gritter had been broken down for weeks - management ignored requests from a fortnight back to get the machine fixed. Shocking stuff. If it were remotely true...

In general, I tend to find opposition councillors rely on third hand nonsense like this, because doing the sensible thing (ie ringing up the relevant officer and checking the facts) delivers rather less lurid headlines.

So I spoke to Ian Thompson, the Assistant Director this morning about Mike's allegations. He told me that the gritting machine had been out on Thursday evening, but had broken down and went into the garage to be fixed. It was out on Friday, but again there was a problem with the salt spreader, and it was looked at once more. It was then out working quite happily on Saturday, Sunday and thereafter.

Ian makes the point too that for the brief periods when the mechanized gritter wasn't working, Street Scene personnel were out spreading grit by hand.

He adds that there were 8 staff hand-gritting on Friday, 4 on Saturday, 5 on Sunday and 8 again on Monday. Clearly, in a longer cold snap than we are used to, snow and ice continue to fall, so repeated work was necessary.

More generally, on the main highway network, the roads have been gritted and/or ploughed 17 times between Thursday and Tuesday am. Now that it has been several days where the snow and ice haven't dispersed, it's likely that the gritters will move into the main housing estates.

If Mike's after a scandal, then he might like to go to Middlesbrough town centre - no gritting or clearing of any kind in its pedestrianised area in evidence as of Moday, with Christmas shoppers slipping and sliding on compacted ice and slush. I have pictures, which I'll put up this evening.

Just sometimes, it's worth checking the facts and celebrating what our Street Scene staff are doing (and in pretty miserable conditions too) before running Darlington down again.


james said...

Alternative title = "blog first, ask questions later".

Worst thing about the cold snap was having to walk home on Saturday night after the bus services were called off...

But since the blame for this can't be laid at the door of the council, I don't expect too many opposition bloggers to be highlighting it...

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

Sorry Nick I cannot celebrate Street Scene with you. Remember the trashing of the play area in Springfield Park which took a call from me on Sunday afternoon to clear the mess up which had occurred on the Friday evening and it was done under the nose of the CCTV camera.

Also I asked at the AGM of the Whinfield Residents Association for the patch of land near the Beauly Drive entrance to Springfield Park be cleared of litter. The rep from Street Scene at the meeting took a note of my request - that was weeks ago and it hasn't been cleared. I spotted a Street Scene worker in Springfield Park picking up litter two weeks ago round the play area. I thought to myself he would go to the part of the park I reported as being litter strewn next, but after a few minutes of picking up litter round the play area he headed back to his cab and drove off.

I am not going to wait any longer, as soon as the snow disappears I will be round there with my black bags and tongs and will clear that area up. I have done it before.

Moan over. Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Darlington Councillor said...

Indeed, James, indeed.

Alan - yes, I think you've mentioned the Springfield Park incident before. Several times in fact. Don't let that stop you making it a front page story in your next Focus, though :)

Sorry to hear that the litter around the Beauly Drive entrance wasn't sorted though. It is something I'll keep an eye on in the future.

On a more festive note, I understand that one of Santa's little helpers wil be round Whitebridge Drive very soon with a special present, delivered inside a councillors' newsletter. I just hope you and Mrs Macnab have been good...

Christmas wishes to everyone!


Mike Barker said...

Christmas wishes to you to Nick and to Sandy and the boys.

I am pleased to report that, six days after the first snow storm, one of the pavements in Duke Street has been gritted. Not cleared, but at least gritted.

No one who has had to go into the town centre over the past week can have been impressed by the poor response to this problem. High Row, Post House Wynd, the whole Market area, Bondgate etc etc all covered in slush, ice and snow for five days.

Talk to the traders and shoppers, Nick. Real facts, not Council propaganda. It's been a shambles and that, I'm afraid, is the general opinion in the town.

I'll be interested to hear from Gill who might like to ask Doris, the Chair of the Neighbourhood Services Scrutiny Committee, about the outcome of her emergency meeting with Ian Thompson about the gritting failure in the town centre.

Mike Barker said...

Oh yes, and while I'm here. I see you have adopted the attitude of your group leadership in suggesting that, because I have a legitimate complaint about a Council service, I am "running Darlington down again."

Now, I know there's a General Election coming and your party is understandably pretty desperate. I suppose we should expect more of these stupid comments. It's like the old Iron Curtain dictatorships where anyone with a legitimate concern and criticism is deemed to be an enemy of the state. It's easier than accepting and acknowledging that there have been mistakes and that something needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

Nick. Received with thanks. Now tell me how many times did the deliverer slip and fall because the footpaths on our estate haven't been cleared?

Off now to wrap the presents. More snow forecast for tonight.

Best wishes.


james said...

"It's like the old Iron Curtain dictatorships where anyone with a legitimate concern and criticism is deemed to be an enemy of the state."

Except that you're not going to be sent for "re-education" at a salt mine or on a "labour beautification course" in the countryside...

Bit over the top, that one, Mike. Sounds rather like old Tory rhetoric in fact!

I read the post as Nick making the point that it's best to check the facts before posting things on the net.

Anyhow, Happy Christmas to all. Take care, best wishes, etc, etc.

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks James - all the best to you and yours too.

Alan - ironically, the elf who delivered on your estate this evening (rather a chunky elf, as it happens) told Santa that he had no problem negotiating the pavements and roads where the snow hadn't been cleared - plenty of traction for his little slippered feet.

In contrast, the elf nearly broke his ****ing neck several times on paths and driveways where householders had tried to clear the snow, but where residual moisture had created a sheet of ice.

What a naughty elf for using language like that! Santa wasn't happy!!

In all seriousness, gritting paths and side roads to a standard that would provide safe passage across the Borough would cost a fortune. I entirely take the point you made elsewhere on this blog, Alan, that some older people can feel trapped in this weather. In prolonged icy weather, however, trying to clear away the snow can do more harm than good.

ianw said...


I have had many requests complaints out here in slippy Hurworth not only for road gritting but for more grit road side bins where residents would willingly do it themselves.

Hurworth Place has 4 such grit bins (3 for the banks and one for Linden Court sheltered housing) this does not stop the locals using it on the footpaths as well.

Why not install more around the Borough especially the rural areas to stop such negative comments, as I too doubt the acuracy of the towns gritting diary, when on a journey at 8am Sunday I had to turn back after sliding and slipping on no less than St. Cuthberts roundabout, I would say the busiest in town and a necessity for the emergency services.

On a lighter note it's good to see someone had the sense to turn the water feature off as it was causing ice on the pavement, however I would suggest that the "someone" who turned it on in the first place seeks a psycological evaluation, basic physics dictates...

Water + miuns temps = ICE.

Merry Christmas everyone and walk carefully ;)

Anonymous said...

John Bull says....

You are high up in New Labour Councillor. Can you ask Brown to ban this or are Labour so heavily dependant on the muslim vote? Cant you get Islam4UK closed down and the leaders deported to the nearest muslim country because they are hell bent on destroying our country.

Islamic group plans Wootton march

People in the town have lined the streets for the repatriation processions
An Islamic group said to have links to an extremist movement is planning to march through the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett.

The town has become famous for honouring British war dead returning from Afghanistan.

Islam4UK pledged the protest would be peaceful with symbolic coffins representing Muslim victims.

Wootton's former mayor Chris Wannell has called on the group's leader not to hold the march.

'Brutal crusade'

North Wiltshire MP James Gray said: "I've seen in the past assorted groups threaten to march, but they don't actually do it.

"I wouldn't think they'd get permission from the police."

Islam4UK is said to call itself a "platform" for the extremist movement al-Muhajiroun.

Leader of Islam4UK, former lawyer Anjem Choudary, said the march would not coincide with a repatriation ceremony.

Everyone has the right to protest, but it's not a very tactful place to do it

Councillor Jenny Stratton
On its website the group said it was "totally unacceptable" to honour servicemen who had contributed "directly or indirectly" to the deaths of "well over 100,000 Muslims in Afghanistan in the last 8 years".

"We at Islam4UK find this totally unacceptable and as a result have decided to launch the 'Wootton Bassett March' to highlight the real casualties of this brutal Crusade," the website states.

Mr Wannell said the townsfolk did not come out to honour the soldiers "for any political reason at all" but to pay their respects to "those who have given their lives for our freedom".

Wootton councillor, Jenny Stratton, said: "Everyone has the right to protest, but it's not a very tactful place to do it."

A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Police said: "Under the Public Order Act the organiser must inform the police of the date, time and route of the proposed procession, and the name and address of the organiser.

"If the march or procession is believed to be likely to result in serious disorder, disruption or damage, then the police can impose conditions upon the organiser.

"In exceptional circumstances, police may apply to the local authority for an order prohibiting such a march."

To date there had been no contact from Islam4UK or any other group wishing to arrange such a march in Wootton Bassett," the spokeswoman added.

Darlington Councillor said...

I think on balance I agree with the local Tory MP on this issue I note you've censored his quote, JB). He said as well,

"The people of Wootton Bassett are not interested in politics. They will say, these are foolish people making a silly point — we’ll get on with our ordinary lives thank you.

“This also misunderstands the nature of what the people of Wootton Bassett do. They are not blood-thirstily in favour of the war. Most people would say they were not qualified to comment on the rightness or wrongness.

“The people of Wootton Bassett are decent, quiet, pragmatic people and they’ll stay at home instead (of reacting to the march).”

Exactly. All too often, extremists, be they the fanatics or the far right, feed off each other with inflammatory statements or promises of marches that never materialise. Best to ignore the clowns (whatever the stripe).

james said...

That Choudary bloke is always threatening or actually pulling these kinds of sick stunts - but then, the press keep giving him coverage...

I suppose all of this prevents any serious discussion of the war in Afghanistan: in the middle of the worst financial crisis in almost a century, and with continuing fatalities and injuries of UK service personnel, when is it going to end?

According to opinion polls, a strong majority of people have wanted UK service personnel to be brought home to safety as soon as possible. Sadly, certain sections of the press give more column inches to bigots like Choudary than to this serious democratic deficit.

Ex-Labour said...

Bit off topic but seems thats the way it is heading. I have said this on many sites/ forums.

Britain is not a prison and as such anyone who clearly hates it and it's people that much have no place here causing racial hatred. Their benefits should be stopped and they should leave to find somewhere they find more congenial to their way of life.
If they incite hatred as Mr Choudry does they should be forced to leave, Gordon can just pass one of his instant anti terror laws and have their british passport status revoked despite where they were born as racists are not welcome in our country.

Bugger off Choudry.