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Inside Out - On the road with the winter maintenance crew

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I went gritting and snow ploughing last Friday night. It reminded me why I love my job.

While most people where tucked up in bed, I went down to our main depot to meet the winter maintenance crew. They had been on standby for a couple of days, but on Friday the heavens opened and the snow fell. A quick cup of tea and off I went with the 10pm-6am shift.

We worked in blizzard conditions to keep as many roads clear as we could. It is dangerous work. The machinery is tricky, the weather is extreme, but the main danger as far as I could see were all the daft people who still decided to travel at night in snow. Cars were slipping and sliding all over the place, and some were driving like idiots.

My two crew buddies had seen it all before and remained calm and professional throughout, taking time to reassure me all would be fine. I’ve been out with the team before so they know me. I am sure they’re still a bit careful around me as I am a ‘big boss’, but I hope they can tell me what they think.

They’re not happy. I asked them what was their biggest worry. It was about the service. Our fleet is getting old and should be replaced next year. They wanted to know whether it would happen as there was more and more down time due to mechanical problems. Next came jobs, after that pay. They were all having real problems making ends meet.

In a strange way, I was reassured by the priority of their worries. The public sector ethos is alive and well at the frontline of our sector. They are not that bothered by the propaganda war waged against us by Mr Pickles and some of the press. They can see immediately the benefit of their labour.

Kevin Lavery, the departing chief executive of Cornwall Council, reminded us all how pivotal in times of change the top council job is, but my mum always used to ask me when I was a student: “When are you going to get a proper job working with your hands?” Maybe if I had a proper job I’d find it easier to ignore the constant slights.

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The one thing he won’t comment on is his identity…

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