Council’s cold snap provisions fell dangerously short in Cumbernauld say local councillors

SNP members of North Lanarkshire Council have called on extreme weather plans to be beefed up following recent problems with environmental services including bin collection, gritting and fly-tipping.

The councillors claim residents found themselves unable to report fly-tipping or request grit bin refills online through the council website or via the Northline phone hotline as it was overwhelmed with calls linked to cold weather, such as requests for gritting.
SNP group leader Councillor Tom Johnston says people were waiting more than 90 minutes to get through on the phone and found that only 11 staff were answering calls.
He said: “As a group we appreciate that around Christmas and into January, we had the unprecedented combination of the Covid 19 pandemic and a prolonged spell of icy conditions.
“These weather conditions resulted in several issues that were brought to us by members of the public regarding information and services provided by NLC which we have rightly raised on behalf of the public.”
The group’s environment spokesman Councillor William Goldie criticised the pressures staff faced and the limitations of the online reporting system, and is seeking assurances that any new digital systems  will be extensively tested before going live. He also says that the current winter policy does not cover “extreme events.”
Cllr Goldie said: “Currently I am aware that we have the Winter Maintenance Policy, the administration should also seriously consider a policy for extreme weather given the recurring issues this administration face when winter comes around every year. The recent extreme weather has identified other issues, exacerbated by the decision to suspend the brown bin service and the subsequent uncertainty of its resumption during the poor weather conditions.
“Many residents appeared unaware of the festive period change and subsequent poor weather suspension. This caused many colleagues across NLC to receives numerous case of brown bins overflowing without a stated date for pickup.
“The Winter Policy is regularly reviewed but now would be the time to supplement this with a more fluid Extreme Weather Policy, in which priorities may change for the duration of the weather event.
A council spokesperson said: “The council’s winter service policy was unanimously agreed in August last year by councillors from all parties and sets out clearly the priorities for winter maintenance, including specifically during periods of winter weather.
“The recent spells of such weather, in January and in the last week or so, have inevitably had an impact on service delivery, as has been the case across all council areas in the country affected by the weather. When the decision was taken to suspend brown bin collection last week, and with effectively two days of general waste collection lost to snow, explicit information was provided to residents on the council’s social media channels and website and on a recorded phone message which callers to the council hear.
“With respect to the number of staff available to answer telephone enquiries, the number cited is only for waste, roads and lighting and not for all services. Any period of winter weather disruption leads to a very significant increase in calls in any given year, which is why information is provided to callers as a recorded message. 
“The reporting tool for empty grit bins has been available for some time and is functional. Because the council staff are deployed during winter weather dealing directly with clearing snow and ice, it takes some time to refill grit bins.”

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