Manchester City Council

A Winters Tale 2 - the Snow Fights Back

The first blog of the New Year (Happy New Year everybody!). The weather isn't the only issue I've had to address but not surprisingly the renewed snow and continuing freeze has dominated the last few days.

There is often a fine distinction between fact and opinion but the fact is that primary and secondary routes have been gritted on a regular basis. I accept it's not always obvious. By way of example, on January 2nd, I went to the shops by car. Whilst back streets like the one I live on had not been gritted, main roads like Middleton Road clearly had. As I set off, it began to snow again and by the time I'd finished a journey of no more than two miles all the grit was completely covered in a new dose of snow. Side roads and pavements haven't been gritted. To be effective the treatment needs to be repeated regularly, and the workforce and machinery required to do this would be absolutely immense. As the Manchester Evening News said today "Would we all be crying so loudly for action if, a few months from now, we were to receive inflated Council Tax demands to pay for fleets of snow ploughs and mountains of grit which would be used in earnest only once every few years? ", and even that doesn't account for the army of people that would be needed to go with it. It's widely accepted that this is the most extreme weather we've had for around three decades and that does mean not everything will work as normal.

I might upset one or two people now - what's new - but for most of us this is at worst a big inconvenience. However, for some people in the city, the very elderly, people with impaired mobility, it can be far more serious. That's why the City Council and other bodies that provide services for us have been busy contacting around six thousand of our most vulnerable residents to make sure they are safe, warm and have food. That's not just a one off and will continue for as long as necessary. But not every vulnerable resident will be on the City Council's books which is why we are saying that if there was ever a time to be a good neighbour, it's now. So if you do have elderly people or people who can't get out at all living in your neighbourhood, now is the time to give them a call and check that they are ok.

An additional difficulty at times like these is information. The Council has been trying to provide as much as possible via our website and the media and have been urging other public service organisations to do likewise. After yesterday's big snow, virtually all our services have returned to normal today. There have been no refuse collections for the second day but the collection operatives have been out clearing snow and it is intended to make up for the missed rounds on Saturday and Sunday. Although it is forecast to be very cold tonight, unless there is more heavy snow, there is no reason (apart from in certain exceptional circumstances) why all public services, including schools, shouldn't be operating normally tomorrow.

Finally, a Thank you. We've only been able to do what we have, to provide support to our most vulnerable residents because of the Council staff who turned in for work yesterday. Some made phenomenal efforts, like the member of staff who walked for three hours in the snow to get in to work. That's what public service is all about and there are thousands of Council staff and other public servants who deserve our thanks for their skill and dedication.

Make a comment

There are 38 responses to “A Winters Tale 2 - the Snow Fights Back”

  1. maggie Says:

    I'd like to ask people to not leave everything to the council but to clear the pavement in front of their home - and that of others to frail to do it themselves. Thanks.

  2. john2 Says:

    total disrespect for employees you expect us to keep essential services running get to work or take holidays was the message from managers sitting at home by the fire "working from home" yea! we all struggled in to find no attempt to clear any roads into council depot carparking even walkways werent cleared or gritted not even the disabled bays, askin why was told manchester ran out of grit days ago. and you wonder why morale is at rock bottom.

  3. Clayton Bridger Says:

    While I agree with some of the points (who seriously wants to pay another couple of hundred quid a year council tax to cover an extreme eventuality?) I don't think that some of the points are particularly close to reality. I take issue for example with the following:
    "there is no reason (apart from in certain exceptional circumstances) why all public services, including schools, shouldn't be operating normally tomorrow."

    Given that the list - on this website! - of schools open and closed shows 17 open (2 only partially) and 95 closed for Thursday. There may be a vast change in the numbers in the morning, but I suspect not enough to make the majority open - meaning that "exceptional circumstances" are in fact the norm....

    Certainly around the Newton Heath area several schools are unlikely to be open unless and until a significant amount of the snow is moved or melted. As the current forecasts indicate that this is unlikely to happen due to higher temperatures until at least the early part of next week, the norm for my area will be at least another week of shut schools as I have seen no evidence while out and about today of snow clearing at the likes of Briscoe Lane, All Saints, Christ the King or St. Wilfrids.

    Please do not pretend that the situation is better than it is - you lose credibility and would be far better served by telling us that the schools are down the priority list for gritting etc due to the need to keep major routes clear or whatever....

  4. Sandra Says:

    Surely if the Council Tax budget was better managed an increase would not be necessary for, as you pointed out, a one-off increase in service provision. Maybe if the Christmas lights were switched off earlier and other unnecessary "services" were withdrawn, the funds could be used more appropriately. Does the council not have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses as we, as individuals, have? We are expected to find the extra money for fuel after all. The residents would be more than happy to use grit boxes if they were provided. In the 70s the councils all managed to provide this service without excuses or increase in rates with a smaller budget. We have gone backwards in time and I am disgusted at the way my Council Tax is squandered.

  5. Disgruntled MCC staff... Says:

    Still no word from the powers that be as to whether staff unable to travel to work on Tuesday will be forced to take the day as holiday or unpaid leave, or be allowed to work it back, I see. Praising those who made it in to work is all well and good, but the more we read the praise, the more it feels like those of us that couldn't make it in are being damned...

  6. Mr Bleach Says:

    This laboured tale of how this is once in thirty years etc comes out everytime snow falls. But the fact is in my recent memory, everytime there has been snow the gritting has always been inadequate. For once it would be refreshing if a public figure would just be honest and say "actually, we messed up on this one and we haven't done enough gritting. Manchester is a ghost town and it's really the council's fault". There have been a number of nasty accidents on pavements within the City Centre where people have been concussed and had to have gone to hospital. The honesty would actually create the by product of making feel better because someone has actually taken responsibility for it rather than saying "it's at worst an inconvenience".

  7. Niall Ballantyne Says:

    I would like to echo Richard and thank all at the Council for their sterling work over the last few days. In fact the last three weeks! Without their efforts the City would be at a complete standstill! My road is practically impassible, but I don't expect it to be gritted/cleared of snow anyway; the major roads need the grit/snow clearing. I've done my bit though - the path outside my house has been cleared two or three times in the last three weeks. If others followed suit, then more of the pavements would be safer to walk on.

  8. sue mcpherson Says:

    Hmmn; inconvenience? Well now – my son’s school is a 45 minute walk away because there are NO school places in Levenshulme. His school is also shut as the school has still not got it’s delivery of grit it ordered before Christmas. Why the delay? I should be glad it is closed, because otherwise I could not get there anyway and would surely be threatened with an attendance fine. So looking forward to a fine should it re-open but I am unable to drag a 6 year old on a 2 mile hike in sub-zero conditions. Oh and when I rang the Council for info on school closures, some poor woman said she had been told off for not getting to work on time. So: schools shut, no child=care but the Council is not able to accommodate its own employee’s problem? Nice. Oh and don’t worry about anything – we can all be good neighbours. As such, can you offer free lifts to me and my son to school so we can avoid a fine? Cheers.

  9. PuppyLove Says:

    How dare you issue a press release that states that all the main roads are now clear. Plymouth Grove is thick with ice all over the road, and this is a main ambulance route. Upper Brook Street is not clear. Moss Lane East is not clear. Upper Chorlton Road is not clear. Withington Road and Wilbraham Road are not clear. Alexandra Road South is not clear. Mauldeth Road West is not clear. You should be utterly ashamed of yourself.

  10. Bernie Says:

    I would like to point out that Middleton Road at the junction of Bowker Bank Avenue me and three other good hearted people sepnt over an hour and a half pushing cars up the road since they conditions were so poor. Yet on our Avenue Bowker Bank we have not seen any help despite being on a big incline and several requests even for a plough to go up and down the road - yes they have closed the industrial estate but the vans/lorries only find out that when they get down and try and get back up Bowker Bank Ave -- no notice at the top.

  11. Patricia Wood Says:

    Having read your comments about all scools re-opening I think that the health and safty of the children comes first as many schools are on very minor roads which are treacherous for walking and who wants children with broken arms or legs or maybe even their teachers who will be off for many weeks recovering. A few missed days at school is much safer option

  12. Mr A Says:

    As a parent I agree completely with your position on the continuing school closures. I work at MCC, my partner at Salford CC and our children are educated in Trafford. We have no problem in signing a waiver concerning responsiblity to facilitate our children getting back to school. We both work in the Public Sector and have been expected to come in to work or use leave. Given that there is still half term to come and our close relatives live hundreds of miles away how are we expected to cope if the wintry weather continues?

  13. Helen Routledge Says:

    i take great exception to your comments. Life on Heathside Road at the moment is more than "an inconvenience! Iam sure our street make up is no different from the others in the area. But we are really struggling.My next door neighbour is 75 and reg. blind, outher immediate nighbours are a couple in their late eighties and one in their late 70's. We are in our 60's and my husband is a double amputee. The rest are students - who are on holiday at the moment.Ofcourse by the council's definition this group is not considered vulnerable.The bin men did not collect yesterday as we were told the road is not accessible yet we are expected to carry on as useual! Life is hard at the moment but are getting on with no help as we do the rest of the year. So please do not insult and belittle us!

  14. edwood woodwood Says:

    *School, Patricia.

    Which jobsworth walked 3 hours to get to work? Were they so scared of being sacked?

  15. Oscar Milde Says:

    Re: Post 14

    Any member of MCC staff not reprting to work was told to take leave, be that unpaid or annual.

    I can fully understand why some people would rather walk three hours to work than lose pay or some of their leave.

    Applying a petty tag to the actions of somebody whose motives you do not fully understand is ridiculous.

  16. jim Says:

    Surely your not saying Managers worked from home on Tue, I just don't believe they would stay at home while requiring their staff to make it too work, its just not true.

  17. finnybobbles Says:

    I am appalled at your comments that schools should be open, many schools cannot open because their staff cannot safely get to work, never mind children getting there safely. On top of that, many school kitchens could not provide lunches even if the staff could get there because food deliveries are not getting through. Suggesting that schools should be open like libraries is a nonsense, libraries do not have strict staff to children ratios, nor do they have to provide hot meals. You obviously have absoluetly no idea about how schools operate!!

  18. Harry Spooner Says:

    Sir Richard's attack on unopened schools again shows, like the congestion charge, his uncanny knack of misjudging the public mood. My daughter, aged 7 years, has managed to get to school for the past two days: struggling along ungritted paths. Her school was closed for two days because of frozen water pipes. All staff have made it in also. Yet the refuse collection operatives have still not made it up my street. If seven year olds and school staff can make it to work, why can't the refuse be collected? As the DCSF says, "The Department has confidence in headteachers to make the right decision for their school, to communicate the position promptly and regularly to parents and to do everything possible to re-open as soon as possible. LAs should be able to provide support - for example by gritting access roads to schools." Perhaps Sir Richard could show the same support.

  19. eve tellet Says:

    Thank you Sir Richard for saying what the majority of people are thinking re school closures. Teachers these days take any opportunity for a few days off to add to their 13 weeks hols each year. In 1962 /63 all schools remained open throughout that dreadful winter. Teachers were professional caring dedicated. The teachers of today could take note of the behaviour of the teachers of that time and move themselves back to work. Many people will lose pay because they have to stay home because of school closures. Will teachers also lose pay for staying at home? I think not.
    Wake up parents and protest.

  20. Temtpting Temps Says:

    There is always going to be someone worse off. I spent 2 hours in my car had to turn around. Travelled another hour to get home. I will not get theoption to take holiday or flexi. I just do not get paid!

  21. edwood woodwood Says:

    "Any member of MCC staff not reporting to work was told to take leave, be that unpaid or annual."

    Then why spend 3 hours walking to work?

    That is what PAID LEAVE is for.

  22. Jim Says:

    Reference 19

    I would agree with you if it was'nt for the Council bringing in the H and S rules. Now what would happen if little Jimmy fell on the ice and broke his leg do you think little Jimmies parents may just make a claim. Of course they would ask Richard how many claims they get with regard to bad pavements a year. In this day and age people are quick to go to court check the adds on TV. So if the council would be willing to cover any claims against schools for inquries I'm sure the schools would open.

  23. Purple Pony Says:

    Helen Routledge, maybe you should read the Blog a little more closely. Sir Leese clearly states "for most of us this is at worst a big inconvenience. However, for some people in the city, the very elderly, people with impaired mobility, it can be far more serious." Therefore acknowledging it is a serious situation for some people!

    Edward Woodwood, maybe the member of staff only had a limited number of leave days left which they didnt' want to waste purely because they couldn't drive into work? Maybe they like to walk and so have no problem with walking for 3 hours. Maybe they are a temporary member of staff who would lose the days pay which they couldn't afford. You don't know their situation and it is damn rude of you to try and disparage their decision to do a days work rather than taking the easy option (which I did) and booking a days leave!!

  24. Mr Plow Says:

    @ Edwood

    It's not the fact that it was easy to take the leave, it's being railroaded into it when other options, like working the hours back in the next 4-week period - it's only 20 mins extra per day - are available. To make people use a day's holiday because they CAN'T get in to work is unfair. Fair play to those who made it it, but there was no way myself and many other people were able to. If we could have, we'd have been in work, simple as that.

  25. DAve Telford Says:

    To MCC workers, I'm sorry but if you can't get to work you take it as holiday. You are very fortunate in that you have a very generous holiday allowance in comparison to those in the productive sector of the economy, as we're paying your wages, I think we can expect a fair day's work in order to take our council tax. Sorry if that seems hard but all my staff who couldn't get in had to take a say's holiday and they get 20 days holiday p.a. which I suspect is less than you get in your isolated world of the public sector.

  26. jIM Says:

    Reference 25

    Just to get it right only 13% of the budget for MCC is raised by Counil Tax collected from residential properties in Manchester.

    Also is this the isolated group of people that supply the teachers to teach your children the Nurses to nurse you the social workers to look after the elderly. I see the private sector is doing all this maybe like they do in the USA not. Do pray tell what your company does for the greater community.

  27. Oscar Milde Says:

    Re 25:

    By using your logic, as consumers, couldn't it be said that the council workers, by procuring any service, be that from a supermarket, a car dealer etc, are paying the wages of the employees of said business? I do not think so, people are paid to do there jobs in private and public sectors because there is a demand for the services or goods that they provide.

    I do not know which line of business you are in but I will guarantee that over the course of your life, you will use the services of MCC far more than I will use you service.

    Bins, street lights, licensing, schools, care workers, housing, hospices and on and on and on.

    And you have the temerity to call us isolated.

  28. edwood woodwood Says:

    Are you all writing these comments on work time???

    Back to work, the lot of you.

  29. Mr Plow Says:

    @ Dave Telford.

    Thanks for that, Dave, you member of the productive sector of the economy, you. For the record, I get 21 days holiday. Hardly more than the bare minimum which, according to employment law, you give your staff, otherwise I'm sure they'd get even less.

  30. Oscar Milde Says:

    re: Edwood Woodwood

    No, not on works time.

    Another one of the fantastic benefits of being an MCC employee is that I get a lunch break in accordance with European employment law.

    What will they think of next, eh?

    Paternity leave? sick pay? When will this madness end.

  31. Mr wheres your community spirit Says:

    Sir Richard, you are absolutely spot on! I don’t know what all the fuss is about. My journey into work on Wednesday was the best rush hour journey I have ever had commuting to Manchester in over 5 years of working in the city. The main roads were fine, the minor roads required a little bit of extra caution, but on the whole it was reasonable, given the circumstances. My usual 1 hour 15 minute journey took less than 45 minutes. It was good to see that only competent drivers who had the basic skills to navigate a bit of snow were on the road, maybe the snow is the best way to deal with the congestion.

    The MCC staff moaning on here should compare and contrast their terms and conditions to people in other sectors, including all those self employed who are incurring costs but can’t get in a days work to earn some money. You all have choices, perhaps you should work in another sector and see if the grass is greener! Believe me you won’t be missed.

    Those schools that stayed closed for the whole week should be ashamed, it seems that many of the Heads Teachers did not have even the most basic of business continuity plans in place. Many Schools were slow to react, it seemed to take many of the Heads 2 day to work out what they should be doing. It was good to see that least some Heads had the common sense to get staff, pupils and parents in to assist in clearing their school.

    I share the view that when life deals you these relatively minor hurdles then you have to get together, within your own community, to find the solutions to get to work, to get to school and to get you life back to normal, not moaning about your rights and what others should be doing for you. If you go to the Austria, Switzerland or France you will see that is exactly what people do there in the areas hit by snow. They clear their own paths and roads and make sure that their vehicles are adequately prepared with winter tyres (deeper tread) to navigate through the snow.

    Those who expect the Council to invest in costly equipment to clear the roads in extreme conditions must be mad. I wonder whether these people would equally be prepared to invest in their own vehicles (purchasing winter tyres) like the French, Austrian and Swiss Governments enforce during the winter months. Of course they wouldn’t because these would only be useful for a small number of days in every decade, just like the vehicles people expect the Council to have.

    For those of you who were slipping on the ice, if you had all cleared the snow outside your house when it fell, it wouldn’t have been compacted by pedestrians and then it wouldn’t have turned to ice. I blame you, were is your community spirit and sense of responsibility? The moaners need to ask themselves what are they doing today to make a difference in their community?

    Ps. I like many took a days annual leave on Tuesday and as a result my road is now clear, the footpaths are ice free and I know my neighbours a little bit better than I did last week.

  32. Trotsky Says:

    Good for you post 31.

    You are a credit to both the world of driving and to the world of employment.
    As you rightly say, there is always a choice, perhaps the self employed people should go and work for the council if their terms and conditions are so bad.

  33. Mr Plow Says:

    Poster 31 is my new hero.

    In a time where people are lacking in community spirit, not to mention that other great human trait of rubbing it in the face of those deemed to be devoid of this most wondrous of virtues, you are truly an inspiration to us all. I'd offer to kiss your (doubtless snow-free and pristine) boots, but I’d feel too worthless to even be in the same space as you and my life thereafter would feel just that little bit emptier and I’d feel nothing but confused anger and bitterness towards you for the rest of my life, and I’m sure none of us want that.

    For the record, I'm asking for nothing other than being able to work longer hours for a few weeks to make up the time lost on Snow Day. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, for you to suggest that Council folk like me wouldn't ‘be missed’ if we were to go and work elsewhere is rather discourteous, not to mention presumptuous of you, considering you have no idea what we do. I know for a fact that my workplace would struggle without me, just as it would without any of the rest of the team because we are so compact and bijou (read: understaffed) that losing one member would impact a great deal on everyone else.

    I wish people would stop comparing the 3 or 4 months of snow experienced in other parts of Europe to what we’ve had, then moaning about people moaning about it. It may well not be a patch on what Austria and Switzerland get (more’s the pity – I love snow!), but as a country we’re not used to it. Our infrastructure can’t cope with it, therefore when heavy snow hits, people can’t get to work because the buses and trains they rely on to do so stop running because it’s dangerous for them to continue to do so. It’s just what happens, and to paraphrase your good self – deal with it!

  34. Ian Says:

    Poster 31

    Why compare us to Austria and Switzerland when all their public transport allways work no matter what depth of snow, By the way non of them are owned by the private sector companies.

  35. Mr wheres your community spirit Says:

    Firstly Mr Plow, I have a thorough understanding of what staff in the Council do, so that is now two of us who are being presumptuous. Like most organisations, some staff in the Council are excellent, some are average, some are poor and some are a burden on the organisation. You are in the luxurious position of working for a large organisation that has policies in place to correct an individual’s poor performance, behaviour and actions, rather than deal with this through a dismissal. Consequently, managers are far less likely to dismiss or discipline staff who are not pulling their weight.

    From my experience, managers in large organisations have the ability to use their discretion and apply a degree of flexibility to an individual’s personal circumstances, like yours last week. I tend to find that managers are less flexible with an individual or team when the individual or team are in the ‘poor’ or ‘burden on the organisation’ category. Perhaps you need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself, does the organisation value my contribution? I suspect your Line Manager doesn’t, but it is easier for him/her to use their discretion to inconvenience you rather than deal with the real issue, which is likely to be either poor performance and/ or a negative attitude.

    Perhaps if your Line Manager felt you were going the extra mile, then they would have gone the extra mile for you! I guess what goes around comes around. You’re right, I am rubbing your face in it, I am also pointing out what you probably already know, I guess this isn’t the first time your Line Manager has used their discretion to inconvenience you.

  36. Mr Plow Says:

    Well, Mr utter lack of anything remotely resembling community spirit other than clearing up some snow and thinking you’re ace, I accept your challenge.

    Unless you’re Derren Brown or sitting behind me watching me type this (in which case get back to work!), you will, of course, have no idea who I am, where I work, what I do within my department or how much I earn, so by that reckoning there remains just the one of us being presumptuous enough not only to tell a number of strangers, of whose personal circumstances they know precisely nothing, that they wouldn't be missed if they were to leave their job, but then to inform one of those strangers rather explicitly that they are doing a poor enough job of it for their manager (of whom you also have no clue as to their identity) to deliberately inconvenience them. I mean really, how very dare you.

    Breaking News! My fantastic LM (who I never said I had an issue with – you were reading between the lines, not for the first time) has literally just this second given me permission to work the day back. I can now get back to working hard to achieve the high standards our department achieves and continues to strive for. I guess that means I’m worth going the extra mile for, eh? ;)

    So now, after enjoying a lovely lunch break conversing with you, I’ll get back to working hard and knowing I’m appreciated for doing so.

    Ayyye thengyou!

  37. Mr Wheres your community spirit Says:

    Good for you Mr Plow! For a minute there I thought I might have touched a nerve. Looks like that quite word I had with your Line Manager paid off. Thats another bit of good work from me then. i am starting to feel like a real hero and that comment of yours wasn't sarcastic after all. Enjoy you're extra days annual leave, i am genuinely glad to see you now feel valued, a job well done!

  38. Pedant Says:

    Considering the terrible spelling and grammar on display by Mr WYCS I suspect that he may in fact be a certain ex-teacher and leader of the council wearing an unconvincing disguise.



The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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