Thursday 2 December 2010

Keeping Warm with Mrs Angry, the One Barnet way

In the interests of public safety, Mrs Angry has decided to issue some helpful advice to the residents of Broken Barnet on the subject of the weather crisis.

She is assisted in this public service by the marvellous guidance currently being offered by our council via its use of state of the art social media. As you know, Mrs Angry is a loyal fan of the Barnet Council Facebook page and has now been allowed to 'like' it again, after an unfortunate incident earlier in the year, when she was accused of planting party political suggestions on the page. She should have realised that only certain priviliged and/or overly ambitious individuals are allowed to plant party political suggestions on council sites, for example the Ideas Barnet website, and then of course only if they are in full support of correct Futureshaped thinking.

Now then. Look outside your window. See that white stuff falling out of the sky? It's not that whimsical, detergent based artificial goo in the Christmas Sainsbury's ad, drifting delicately onto a lovely village with yummy mummies, resident Welsh choirs standing by, and a ready supply of Jamie Oliver's mince pies. No. This is a curious phenomenon that we weather experts call 'snow'.

Snow is wet, and cold and messy. Did you know?

When it freezes, it becomes quite smooth and hard and when you walk on it, if you are not careful, you might fall over. Even if you are careful you still might fall over. Because of course, this is not Sainsbury's snow, and it is certainly not M&S snow: this is One Barnet snow, dropping on One Barnet streets. And as it falls, it brings not just inconvenience and disruption to the residents of our borough, it brings a very rare thing: an opportunity to worry the residents and force them to engage in a warm and fuzzy love in, all delivered in a virtuoso display of One Barnet in action.

Q:What is the motto of easy, sorry, One Barnet, citizens?

A:Better services for less money.

Q: define 'better'.

A: Well, in the One Barnet book, this means actually much worse, because we don't want to spend any money on anything, but we don't want anyone to realise it is worse, so we will keep saying it is better until everyone believes it.

In the seven or so months since the election, this administration has been pursuing a determined course to self destruction. Allowancegate, the leadership challenge, and the fundamental questions raised by the Grant Thornton report on the viability of the Futureshape/One Barnet 'model' have left the Tory group in disarray, infuriating local residents, local press, local bloggers, even the national press, and, most dangerous of all, alienating its own diehard Conservative voters.

Our Tory councillors know that they have to try and wrest back control of the tarnished image of this council. But what can they do? Well, they have tried to control the consultation process over the budget proposals, and now they are trying to restore the public perception of the council with an attempt at building 'a new relationship' with residents. A journalist from one of the local newspapers has been poached to act as gamekeeper/Press Officer. There are plans afoot to use interactive media, and 'revamped' residents' forums and various other strategies to try and wallpaper over the cracks. In other words, we may be going to hell in a hindcart, but we will be assured that we are on the stairway to heaven, so convincingly, that we won't realise where we are until it is too late.

The snow arrives, and our council leaps into action. A blizzard of press releases falls from on high. At the time of writing on Thursday afternoon, there have been 18 statements in two days warning people that it is snowing, or going to snow, or might snow, might be icy, is icy, and - and here is the important news - the council advises residents to 'take extra care'. Oh. Thanks, Hadn't thought of that. And er what is the council doing?

Well, the usual round of gritting. You know, main roads, town centres and stuff.

'So,', remarked one resident who was obviously less than impressed with all the showing off about that, 'You're doing what you're paid to do?'

Other residents have pointed out that some main routes, and also various thoroughfares frequented by the elderly and infirm have not been gritted.

'How about gritting the side roads, then maybe the pensioners could go shopping?' asked one.

'No one likes the council. Go away.' suggested another.

Mrs Angry, after recommending her own usual nightime heat saving (and rather alluring) outfit of thermal vest and knickers, topped off with a balaclava helmet, asked what had happened to the promised Community Grit Keeper scheme, you know the one discussed by Coleman and Dean Cohen, who had been set a 'task and finish' working group on this very subject. (In case you are wondering.'task and finish' groups are one of those ghastly Barnetspeak phrases, which means a group of new boy or old codger councillors given some homework to do by the Cabinet prefects to keep them out of mischief and make them feel that they matter, which they don't, and then they report back to a committee which ignores their findings anyway.)

But the Community Keeper scheme: this is where favoured members of the community are supposed to be given control of local grit bins, and a padlock with a secret code, and trusted to give out grit to the needy like a parish overseer in the nineteenth century. Big Society thinking, see? Only problem is oh: one year on and they haven't actually got round to setting this up yet. Doing a little trial run. Be ready round July, just in time for the next heatwave. This will thwart the plans of those silly residents whom Mr Coleman has accused of actually daring to use the grit without asking him first, not to mention prevent those rogue gangs of international grit thieves waiting to ransack our precious One Barnet supplies, eh?

Mrs Angry has asked how residents were supposed to know where existing bins were located. She was referred to a list which is just that, an alphabetical list of roads with bins. No map, in some cases no clue as to where exactly on the road the bin might be. Is there any logic to the distribution of these bins? Are they fairly distributed? There do seem to be an awfully large number of roads in, what shall we say, the leafier parts of the borough which are listed. There is no bin in Mrs Angry's road, despite the fact that it is a busy thoroughfare with several schools in the vicinity. Well, yes she could walk to find one: if the pavements or side roads had already been gritted. Ah.

She was also referred to a marvellous piece of One Barnet advice, which I commend to all citizens: it is entitled:

"Clearing Snow and Ice from Footways:

There's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the public footways outside your home or from public spaces. It's unlikely
(unlikely! Very reassuring) you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully and not made the conditions worse. Remember, people walking on snow and ice have responsibility to be careful themselves. Please note the following tips:

Clear the snow or ice early in the day

It’s easier to move fresh, loose snow rather than hard snow that has packed together from people walking on it. So if possible, start removing the snow and ice in the morning. If you remove the top layer of snow in the morning, any sunshine during the day will help melt any ice beneath. You can then cover the path with salt before nightfall to stop it refreezing overnight. Be careful - don’t make the footpaths more dangerous by causing them to refreeze.

Prevent slips

Where possible, use the footway spreading machine provided.
(Whoa ... 'footway spreading machine provided? Really? Ah: you giving out brooms, maybe?) Pay extra attention to clear snow and ice from steep footpaths or steps - you might need to use more salt on these areas. (Do you mean grit? Where do we get that again?)

Use salt or sand - not water

If you use water to melt the snow, it may refreeze and turn to black ice. Black ice increases the risk of injuries as it is invisible and very slippery. You can prevent black ice by spreading some salt on the area you have cleared. Be careful not to spread salt on plants or grass as it may cause them damage. If you don’t have enough salt, you can also use ordinary salt, sand or ash.
(ash? where from: a volcano?)

Take care where you move the snow

When you’re shoveling snow, take care where you put it so it doesn’t block people’s paths or drains. Make sure you make a path down the middle of the area to be cleared first, so you have a clear surface to walk on. Then shovel the snow from the centre of the path to the sides. Ensure that when clearing snow/ice you are not making another part of the path, or the road, more slippery.

Offer to clear your neighbours’ paths

If your neighbour will have difficulty getting in and out of their home, offer to clear snow and ice around their property as well. Check that any elderly or disabled neighbours are alright in the cold weather. If you’re worried about them, contact your local council.
(who will do what, tell them to wait six months for a means tested assessment of need?)

Please note:
Paramount in any wintry conditions is the need to walk within the conditions that prevail
(walk within the conditions that prevail? What?) and therefore residents are urged to walk with caution and wear appropriate footwear, particularly if gritting or clearing snow or ice. "

Er: yeah. Thanks for that.

Coleman and his Tory pals are outraged at the idea of residents demanding the gritting of pavements and side roads. They fail to understand how hard, and dangerous, it is for many elderly and disabled citizens to get even a short distance along a path or across a road that has not been gritted. These residents probably don't have their own transport - and don't have the option of expenses paid taxis chauffeuring them from A to B - and if they don't get out to the shops to buy supplies, how will they manage? Well, I guess they have to sit at home and wait for the Big Society to come knocking at their door. And keep up to date on the latest advice on 'taking care' on the council websites. In the meanwhile, the real cost of all this Tory ideological claptrap falls the hardest, as usual, on the least advantaged members of society: no, not Cameron's one, the real one, in the real world, where you and I have to live.


baarnett said...

I find it sad that a valued member of the Fourth Estate should prostitute his art by going to work on "Public Communications" for the dreadful council.

It must be the money - local journalists are notoriously badly paid

Presumably a vacancy existed because someone else just couldn't stand the job any longer.

Unknown said...

In neighbouring Camden pavements are gritted; in Barnet only the car is assisted, which is a shame for all those elderly people who may not have a car.

A US friend tells me that in the mid-west people stick a small bag of cat litter in their cars, to spread under the tyres if it gets icy. Maybe you can add this to your list of handy hints.

Mrs Angry said...

hmm baarnett, I suppose in these challenging times we all lower our standards a little, but this is a shame ... I was just getting to be interested in the resurgence of the Press, and now look ... jumping over the frontline and surrendering to the enemy. Perhaps he is really on a long term mission, an insider planted in the heart of the establishment who will be reeled back in by the editor for an exclusive expose of the dark and dirty world of Barnet spin?

cooljoe: interesting about Camden. Here in Barnet the car is king, and the serfs are expendable.

ainelivia said...

Yes we have a grit bin in our cul de sac. If we didn't have it leaving the street by car could be impossible. The bin however is placed under a large bush which makes it difficult to open the the lid, and usually blocked by cars parked on that side of the road. my husband and neighbours son went out and gritted the hilly exit from our little road earlier this week. No one else has gotten off their a*ses to do anything. If you are a pedestrian the pavements are like ice rinks and the only way to walk safely is in the road and up the steep incline that leads to the main road. Community spirit seems to be unfortunately following the lead of our Councillors, "look after No 1". Our Council seem only to care about cars, as you pointed out, and if you are a pedestrian, well they don't care, as I imagine few of our Councillors are used to using their legs. "Digusted Mill Hill"

Mrs Angry said...

Greetings, Digusted of Mill Hill. What amuses me, although of course I am easily amused, is the pontification of certain councillors who have demanded that residents clear the streets yet when interviewed during the snow last year and ranting on about this had to admit that he himself had not bothered to get the shovel out.