Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty - George Bernard Shaw

Morning, Saturday December 19

Here is my letter to Brighton and Hove Council after watching councillor Geoffrey Theobald defend the local authority's neglect of its citizens.

Dear Mr Theobald and members of Brighton and Hove Council,

Mr Theobald's defence on television last night of the local authority's response to the snow in Brighton since last Thursday was astonishing. Yesterday I made a complaint to the council about the state of the pavements and Mr Theobald's comments made me wonder if we live in the same city.

This is my experience of Brighton and Hove Council's response to the conditions we have had to live with.

I live in Hartington Road, a designated emergency route. It is a long hill running from Lewes Road to the top of Elm Grove. Most of the street on the first day of snow impassable. By Friday several side streets became blocked by sideways-on cars or lorries that had tried to move and become stuck.

There was no pre-gritting. Our road was eventually visited by a gritting van at about 5 on Sunday afternoon. I went out shortly afterwards. There was no grit on the road so perhaps it was just going home or putting on a show? That is the only evidence of council activity I have witnessed since the snow began to fall.

I had no need or desire to use my car and was perfectly prepared to walk everywhere, which I did, but with great difficulty. Every pavement in this area, along Lewes Road, across the Level and into the centre of town, or to the station, was like an ice rink. I walked to Brighton station on Friday and it took me an hour because the pavements were so dangerous. It would normally take me 25 minutes max.

On Saturday, I decided to walk to the marina. I went up Elm Grove and over the racecourse, down through Whitehawk. There is a long path into Whitehawk from the racecourse and as I walked down, keeping to the snow and off the path, there was an elderly woman with a shopping trolley desperately trying to get down too. As I and my daughter guided her, we arrived at the bottom of what was more like a toboggan run than a path. It was a sheet of ice and the ice continued until we arrived at the road. How the council could have allowed this path to remain ungritted strikes me as criminally irresponsible.

I wonder if Mr Theobald and officers of the council have attempted to walk anywhere, or perhaps they have restricted themselves to the parts of the city that have been gritted or perhaps they have travelled by car? Last night, (Monday) when the snow started to melt, there was a police officer in my street who tried to walk on the pavements, no doubt attempting to put into practice the official advice not to walk in the roads. Obviously, he had to abandon his attempts and joined the rest of us in the middle of the street.

So four days into this extreme weather, we are still risking injury in order to leave our homes. As for the council supposedly working round the clock to make the streets safe - I wonder what the council defines as safe, as the city and working round the clock?

My questions to each member of Brighton and Hove council are:

1. why were such dangerous conditions not responded to effectively?
2. has the local authority broken the law through its negligence?
3. why were council workers not working to clear the pavements?
4. why weren't members out in their wards with grit and shovels?
5. how exactly do you justify the level of incompetence that residents of the city have experienced?
6. who will pay if there are injury claims against the council - because I am not prepared for those claims to be included in my council tax.
7. when young people are next demonised for anti-social behaviour, can we perhaps remember how many local residents have been put in real danger by the irresponsibility of this local authority. For the last four days, the local authority has shown itself to be incapable of running the city.

Morning Friday December 18

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