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Councils urged to seek snow men - and women

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Volunteer members of the public should be used to help councils clear snow, a parliamentary report on last winter’s severe weather has said.

MPs on the transport select committee said the Government should issue guidance to council on best practice in training ‘snow wardens’.

Their report on the response to the heavy snow that saw the country grind to a halt last December noted: “There is a clear responsibility on national and local government and other transport providers to ensure that transport systems are kept running during periods of severe weather.

“More could be done to facilitate voluntary action in certain circumstances, for example to help clear icy pavements and assist vulnerable people. The Government can do more to promote best practice.”  

This would include “guidance for local authorities on enabling and encouraging voluntary action, for example in relation to the recruitment of volunteer snow wardens”.

The MPs said they were “we are sympathetic to the argument that it would be beneficial if more money were spent on winter resilience”, given the damage caused to the economy, which contracted that quarter because of the disruption.

“Extra investment should be targeted on those parts of the travel network which have shown themselves to be least resilient in recent years and where the costs of disruption are highest,” they said.

Arrangements to distribute de-icing salt were revamped after they failed in the winter of 2010-11, and the committee said these had proved largely successful.

But it urged the Government “to consider ways of ensuring that strategic salt supply arrangements are more transparent to local authorities and that new guidance on salt spreading rates is followed”.

This followed complaints from councils that there were no supplies of salt north of Humberside and that they were unable to find out from the Department for Transport the amount being released from its strategic reserve of salt.

Committee chair Louise Ellman said: “The strategic salt arrangement introduced a year ago clearly kept many main roads open last December.

“The Highways Agency and police forces must however work to manage blockages on the strategic road network more pro-actively.”

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