December 29 2010

Bill Esterson



The cold weather continues to cause a disruption and difficulty for many people in Sefton.


There has been a lot of criticism of the council’s lack of preparation for the heavy snow and the failure to clear the roads or pavements. Much of this criticism has been justified and my office has been inundated with calls and emails from people struggling to cope or worried about friends, family or neighbours.


Many people have helped each other with clearing drives or pushing cars and there has been a good spirit or support. I also think that any failing on the part of council is at the top.


The workforce have worked extremely hard and done their best with the resources available and in following the plan they have been given. I also understand that many staff have been clearing paths near health facilities, care homes and sheltered housing units.


So now is a good opportunity to recognise the hard work done by many council staff and other people in trying to deal with the snow and ice. Thank you to all of those staff and thank you also to the thousands of staff who work for councils, for the health service, in schools, libraries and leisure centres, bus and train drivers and all those who deliver fabulous services to residents in Sefton and elsewhere.


This is a very worrying time for people who work in the public sector and for their families. The scale of the cuts and the announcement just before Christmas shows a disregard for those people and for their hard work on our behalf.


I said that the criticism about the council’s lack of preparation for the snow was deserved when it came to those at the top. Sometimes those in charge don’t help themselves. Such as the senior council officers who claimed that the gritting lorries all had snow ploughs attached to them when the snow came. This was after other council officers had admitted that Sefton had not fitted snow ploughs to the lorries and despite the fact that residents could see for themselves that there were no snow ploughs fitted.


Then there are the politicians. The leader of the Conservative group went on Radio Merseyside and blamed the people for driving too slowly along Moor Lane in Crosby. Presumably she thinks that people should ignore the ice and snow and the fact that driving is very tricky in places. I have seen a number of cars losing control on the ice and my team and I have helped a number of motorists who have become stuck when we have been out and about in Maghull, Crosby, Aintree and Formby.


I don’t know what the Tory leader thought she was doing in blaming the motorists but sometimes we politicians feel the need to blame others even when it makes no sense.


The Lib Dem leader of Sefton council was also playing the blame game. He claimed that the problems with the snow and ice were nothing to do with him as there is another councillor who is responsible for technical services. While this is true, the Lib Dem leader is after all the leader of the council and is ultimately responsible for everything that happens.


Sadly blaming others is all too common. Government ministers do it and the media is always looking for someone to blame. In fact we all do it. Several people who have contacted me have believed that I am responsible for clearing the snow. As a result I have tried to explain that the council is responsible as it is their job to clear the roads. So just like everyone else I play the blame game. Maybe it should not be a surprise if local councillors also blame others instead of accepting responsibility.


Finally, the snow has its upside. It has brought people together and of course it can be great fun. Tobogganing with my children has been great even if we are a bit short of hills to use.


Thank you to everyone in Sefton who has sent Christmas greetings to my family and to me.


I wish everyone in Sefton a happy new year.

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