The Isle of Wight, like the rest of England, is shrouded with snow and ice. It’s fun – for the kids off school for days (Junior ranger Bill, when asked for a comment, remarked ‘lol’). But it’s not quite so much fun for some of the adults.
The highways have been slippery, and services such as waste collection, planning, libraries, buses and much more are either suspended or limited, as staff just can’t get in to work – or if they can, they can’t get around. The Ranger’s not been in the office for two days – although I’ve been getting round the sites near where I live, and doing a lot of work on the computer and by phone. My colleagues with land-rovers are in high demand, but my days of dashing around in emergencies are probably past… mind you, if this carries on for a few more days the rangers will need some sleep and even I might have to dust off my hi-vis jacket. We rangers and land managers get to help out a bit at times like this – tonight, for example, one of our rangers is driving a care worker around the Island to visit elderly and vulnerable people. But there are others throughout public service who do a lot more, and right now they’re very stretched. Gritters, social workers, IT workers, media officers and many more are working extra hours, and walking to work to deliver those vital services we all take for granted.
This is especially true on the Island where we are not used to snow – a spell of weather like this hasn’t been seen here for thirty years or more, and we haven’t got much infrastructure to deal with it. Much of the south of England can say the same – why should taxpayers pay for a snowplough and keep it in the depot for thirty years? And yet even here somehow snowploughs are out working. And even though there are relatively few staff available, because we know its important and people need it, the work keeps on even as the cold weather continues day after day. Officers have been sleeping in the office or even the cab – and it’s not over yet. Still, if there is one thing we council workers know it’s that when something goes wrong, it’s the council’s fault and we’ll soon enough hear about it. Now I’d never suggest that all was perfect, and I’ve no doubt there will be some analysis of the problems that have arisen as time goes on, and rightly some criticism. Oh, hang on, the criticism has arrived already! And a lot of it seems a bit personal: here’s a selection from Twitter over the last few days:
IOW Council GET YOUR ACT together NEXT TIME i.e get out there tonight…. (@Sirtaggy)
Too much Coffee drinking going on in the County Hall IW and not enough action on getting the roads salted (@iwchris)
What the hell is the IOW Council playing at? It’s not like they’ve haven’t had any warning the roads needed grit…! #IOWCouncilFail (@kieronlanning)
Are IOW Council doing any work. No evidence of any real gritting on even main roads. (@Big_Jen)
I think someone in the Isle of Wight Council wants his arse kicked, the lack of gritting is appauling around here (@iwchris)
Now there’s no doubt the weather has been pretty poor, and lots of things could have been done better. Further, people have had some pretty awful experiences – five hour journeys home and small businesses hurting. We’re heard of people taking in stranded motorists, taking hot drinks out to police patrols, neighbours helping neighbours and rallying around. It’s great to see the community spirit that the people of the Island are always able to summon up when it’s needed. But, neighbours, when you feel the need to vent your spleen, remember those who are trying to help. ‘The Isle of Wight Council’ – and your local council – may be a faceless organisation, but it’s made up of many faces that belong to real people.