Thursday, 6 January 2011

anger is not enough

Last night at the area committee held in Southport Town Hall there were a lot of angry people who had come to express their anger to those involved in the disastrous handling of the winter snows. The Chief Exec repeated her apology and her determination that lessons should be learnt. That is a good start. Reports will appear elsewhere about the meeting my intention here is to move on beyond the expression of anger and frustration to look at some of the things the council need to do differently.

I should start by saying this should not be focused on the unprecedented winter snow. I doubt we shall see it's like again. You never know but it is improbable. We must instead focus on how we deal with unexpected emergencies however they manifest themselves-flood, fire, earthquake, explosion etc. It is a bureaucratic conceit to imagine you can plan for all unexpected events. The question is are we flexible and imaginative in our response when The Plan is clearly irrelevant.

I suppose my key criticism of the response to this emergency is that the council operated in a bubble. It put information on its own website and ignored other Southport sites which have significantly higher readership. It tried to cope principally by utilising staff in departments directly managed in highways. It failed to prioritise the snow clearing task above some worthy day to day activities and it failed to make use of staff in other departments who could of and should of been brought into to help. I do not know exactly how many 4 wheel drive vehicles Leisure have or how many tractors but they were not evident in the response. And just like in the communication strategy they failed to look outside the council. I have no doubt that farmers could have been drafted in to help, that volunteers- including uniform youth organisation -could have helped. A well co-ordinated call for volunteers on Saturday morning would have cleared Chapel St.

So one of the lessons I would like to be learnt is that these emergencies do not happen to the council and the council cannot solve them alone. The whole community is effected and it is only by working with the community that an adequate response can be mounted. The monopolist instinct of the bureaucratic mind must be replaced by a pluralist and inclusive approach.

My colleague, Simon Shaw, has worked very hard and effectively reviewing the happenings of the period around Christmas. Working with other councillors from all parties he has co ordinated a reponse. Some of this has already be trailed on the blog and more detail will follow.

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