For some it's painfully early to start thinking about winter and Christmas, but if last year's reports are anything to go by, local councils across Britain will have already planned to stockpile salt to grit roads, and make travel as easy as possible. Perhaps it's because we're unused to difficult winter weather, and are usually struck by only a few days or a couple of weeks every year, but the frantic news reports and panic that often ensues can be expected each year. So why are we so bad at dealing with snow?
In January 2013, during three weeks of snow and ice, it became a common sight to see diggers clearing snow from roads in the early hours of the morning after another night of heavy snowfall. What preventative measures have been carried over to 2014 though? The Government have already produced a lot of online material and advice as part of its 'Get Ready for Winter' campaign, which is sponsored by E-on, advising people on how to remain warm and safe, what to carry in their cars in case they break down, and how to change their driving style accordingly. By November last year, local councils across England and Wales had stockpiled more than the 1.3 million tonnes of salt they'd stockpiled in 2012, so no doubt 2014 will see a further increase, or at least the same level.
However, despite this extra preparation, one of the reasons for the UK's inability to deal with snow could be financial. Because winter weather is less frequent and severe here than in countries further north, such as Sweden and Norway, there are less spare funds and resources to cover the cost of a sudden snowstorm. Despite it causing a lot of disturbance to roads and airports, it happens so rarely that the extra expense is deemed not worth it.
The counterargument to this, however, is that it happens regularly enough for it to be a priority for the government anyway. Belgium have a similar winter, with brief periods of snow, and have had their government criticised heavily for being unprepared. They instigated a 'winter plan', which closely resembles the UK's, so there are clearly other nations struggling under the same circumstances.
In 2012, Cumbria County Council recruited fifty volunteers to help clear footways and footpaths. They were all trained and correctly equipped, but it begs the question of how under-resourced local councils actually are if they need to recruit members of their communities. The real test will come later in the year, when the weather warnings start to get more serious.
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