The deputy leader of Harrow council has warned that there could be big trouble ahead if there is more heavy snow this week because salt supplies have still not been adequately replenished.
According to the Met Office London should be braced for as much as 15cm of snow across Thursday and Friday. But Councillor Susan Hall told residents at a public meeting that only 272 tons of salt remained. She said:
“If the weather gets worse we could be in real trouble. If we have a bad week we will be out of salt completely.”
The councillor said that efforts to replenish supplies were being doubled but the extra 2,000 tons of salt needed to prevent icy roads had still not arrived.
However she said the council had done everything they should have done to prepare for the snowy weather last month, which was the worst in decades. Harrow’s grit shortages became a national story as Britain was blanketed in snow and ice.
One resident complained that on Harrow’s border with Barnet, along the A5, there had been a marked difference in how much grit was put down. “Harrow had absolutely nothing on it for quite a few days,” they said.
Yet pointing out that many boroughs, like Haringey, had not kept their main roads clear, Councillor Hall said that it was not always possible to grit side roads.
“Often where the snow is cleared it is on big wide roads which we don’t have in Harrow. We can’t send gritting lorries down narrow roads because they might damage parked cars.”
Councillor Hall also said that the legal department were looking into whether residents should clear pavements against the risk of accidents.
She admitted it was possible to be sued if someone did something negligent, like put water on an icy pavement, and “somebody came along and broke a leg.”
“But the reality is that if you just sweep it away everybody should be alright. As long as people are warned and told not to be stupid. For elderly people hopefully there will be a neighbourly spirit.”
Council leader David Ashton said they were considering an umbrella insurance policy. “There is the danger that if somebody slips over by your house they might ring up the lawyers,” he said. “Nobody wants to go through that hassle.”
He said severe weather had exacerbated the “pothole problem” in the area, after one resident reported counting a rise to 85 potholes at Pinner View.
Councillor Hall said they were taking pains to repair roads, but acknowledged that she has been receiving up to 30 emails every day on the subject. Last month it was reported that potholes would cost the council an extra £1 million.
Michael Burton, editor of the MJ, the management journal for local authority business, hosted the evening. He said the gritting problem was a national problem and blamed it on highway maintenance budgets being trimmed.