BLOG: 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.
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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??
Ben Mitchell is a freelance political commentator who has had work published on The Independent and Huffington Post, as well as on a number of the country's top political blogs.
His personal blog can be found here. You can follow him on Twitter: @bmitchellwrites