Sunday, 20 January 2013

We don’t need “snow wardens.” We need community spirit and personal responsibility.

There’s only one thing more predictable than the sight of Britain coming to a standstill at the first heavy snowfall, and that’s someone moaning about the fact that Britain always comes to a standstill at the first heavy snowfall. Far be it from me to worry about such grumbling.

On Friday, it snowed in Bristol. A lot. For days, we were told to expect Snowmaggedon. Be prepared. Stay warm. Only make essential journeys. (Problem is, society hasn’t quite worked out what an essential journey is). The trains excelled themselves, with South West cancelling some its services before a flake had even fallen. That’s the Blitz spirit we all know and love. With some admirable exceptions, schools closed, forcing parents to take a day off work.
The thing about snow is that it starts off looking beautiful and magical, but soon the white fluffy stuff turns to the treacherous icy stuff. This is where you hope the council does its job and grits as many streets and roads as it possibly can. Where I live, the picture is mixed, with main roads clear, but pavements ungritted – and hazardous.  Traipsing down the Well Roads has become something of a trial. And getting down my own (non-main) road is hard enough at the moment.

But, it needn’t be.
I have just learned about “snow wardens.” The council appoints them for the hilliest parts of the city. Apparently, there are 58 of them. Their job? To help clear the snow and ice away. The council provides them with a shovel, some grit and high-visibility jackets (which might make them hard to distinguish from offenders on community service, assuming such schemes still exist).

Now, I don’t have a problem with the “snow wardens” idea per se. But, let’s be honest. The only reason such a scheme exists in the first place is because few of us can be bothered to scrape away the snow and ice from outside our homes. It’s great that there are volunteers out there happy to help, but is it too much to ask that each and every one of us who can, does their bit? Why should the council need to appoint “snow wardens?”
If we can’t be relied on to do something which should take no more than a few minutes, it’s no wonder older (and even younger) generations lament the passing of community spirit in this country. In times gone by, people wouldn’t need to be asked to bring out a shovel. They’d already be there, bright and early, and doing their neighbours’ path too.

This is only a small gripe. It’s not the end of the world. It just feels like nowadays we rely on authority, or the goodwill of others, to do everything for us. The council should get on with gritting and salting main roads. The rest of us can take care of our own streets and paths.
And for those worried about the health and safety police advising against removing snow without the appropriate training, or those concerned about being sued should a stranger slip over outside their home as a result of a homeowner’s inept clearing job, help is at hand. Government advice, issued in October 2010, sought to demolish the usual myths that get banded about. We now have a “Snow Code.” Yes, really. Commonsense is the order of the day and people have been reassured that they are “extremely unlikely” to be sued if someone slips. I mean “snow code!” What on earth have we become??

This comment piece was first published on thisisbristol on Sunday 20th January 2013


  1. I live in Upper Knowle. Community spirit vanished here when Tesco & then Sainsburys opened. Our neighbours started to drive there. They literally stopped walking along the street, existing acquaintances have become just a wave through a windscreen - and only dog walkers remain to acknowledge on a regular basis. When it snows, most peoples reaction is - "How am I going to get the car out?" Looking up my street, some people have cleared a bit of pavement to the door of their car - but thats about it.
    We don't know the people around us anymore. I've watched the occupants of our street ( which is a steep hill) cope with several very difficult winters with barely a comment to each other, as we are now unfamiliar with one another. Having all our facilities relocated away from neighbourhoods has removed opportunity for unorganised social interaction.

  2. "been reassured that they are “extremely unlikely” to be sued if someone slips."

    Oh come on. Why are they even putting the risk that high ? Are people too afraid to knock the attack on compensation culture?

    Highways litigation has been with us for 500 years. Not once has anyone been sued for this in 500 winters. Its a tablod smearing lie. I fail to understand why it is given credence, other than to support the endless attack on "compensation culture".

    Don't worry, come April you will struggle to sue anyone for anything - car accidents, work accidents. And its barely made the papers !

    [Also - the post above is spot on]


  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.