Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Low-salt government

According to the BBC it would seem that advice is responsible for councils all over the country failing to have more than 6 days stock of road salt.

It says so here
six days supply [of salt] - the officially minimum recommended level of salt needed to meet demand
It would also seem that, last spring, British Salt in Cheshire was offering councils cut-price salt, but
Up to 30 councils spurned an offer last year of thousands of tonnes of de-icing salt at a reduced price, to use on the roads this winter, the BBC has learned.

British Salt Director David Stephen made the offer from its 60,000 tonnes stockpile in April but had no takers.

The offer had been made because
"Following last year's winter, we knew we had 60,000 tonnes available ..." said Mr Stephen.

"We went to the markets and offered them this same product at a discounted price," he added.

None of the councils contacted responded.
and why didn't they respond? It was because
every council had six days supply - the officially minimum recommended level of salt needed to meet demand.
So somebody in government had told them they would only need 6 days supply of salt, and everybody followed the rules.

It would seem that, now,
LGA's David Sparks ** said the six-day advice may have to be revised.
British Salt is nearing the stage where orders will exceed supply at its factory in Middlewich, Cheshire.

"Once the panic has died down we will go back to the councils and see if we can secure a supply position with them," Mr Stephen added.

In the meantime Britain is
buy[ing] salt from abroad
even though everybody could have
 stocked up last year and saved money if they had ordered earlier.
It wouldn't have made any difference because
David Sparks, a member of the transport board of the Local Government Association said he was not aware of British Salt's offer.
I can't see that he needed to be, it should be up to individual councils to make up their mind how they spend their money.
But he added: "That wouldn't have altered anything because everybody did have six days of salt which was the consensus view of the level of salt that was adequate to meet the demands that we would face.
"The consensus may have been wrong but I don't know that, I would much prefer us to systematically review it so we can come to a figure in the light of our experience that is more able to deal with the problems we face.
"If it is decided that we need to plan for [and] spend more money for rarer events then so be it, but it needs to be something that's studied systematically."
So somehow they reached a 'consensus' - and that consensus was wrong - but they're going to have a meeting about it and work out what to do next. In the meantime the country isn't able to do anything because it's ground to a halt.
Mr Sparks added: "The problem we face is that we do not know what the weather is going to be like.
Oh dear, the weather forecasters got it wrong. That'll be the same weather forecasters who work for the Met Office (run by John Hirst****) who reckon they can accurately predict that the planet will burn up if we keep breathing out.

Mr Sparks says
We must first ensure there is an adequate supply of salt and that is defined and there are adequate methods of increasing that supply should the need arise.
Yes - I wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be an "adequate supply of salt".

Take away the puppet strings and let councils to think ahead, let them use their common sense and realise that what's good for the Scilly Isles isn't the same as what's good for Yorkshire, Humberside or Cumbria. Councils should be free to make up their own minds - especially if they know from experience that they have snow, frost or ice for more than six days between October and March.

Local councils should be allowed to plan ahead and buy something at lower out-of-season prices - something that should never, ever, need to imported via our expensive port system because it can be sourced from within Britain
"Equally we need to look at whether there are alternative methods of dealing with the problems of extremely cold weather on the roads network.
Maybe they should have another meeting? A long, expensive, meeting of lots of important people in a place that has lots of snow and ice in the winter.

Didn't some people already do that? They got into their planes and went here - but it was the wrong sort of meeting, wasn't it.
Transport minister Sadiq Khan*** admitted that the six day advice may be altered in the future.
"Once we get out of these freezing conditions we'll need to look at the lessons and one is asking if the national resilience programme is adequate if there may be more frequent periods of bad weather," he said.
There we have it - lessons learned!


Out of interest :-
** Councillor David Sparks OBE is Councillor for Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood area of Dudley Metropolitian Borough Council; Group Chair of the Labour Group of LGA where hs in on the Regeneration and Transport board of the LGA
(which covers the areas relating to transport, economic development in rural and urban areas.);Board Member of Regional Development Agency and Chairman of Dudley Zoo.
*** Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting and Minister of State, Department for Transport as well as having lots of other local responsibilities
**** John Hirst runs the Met Office. He previously worked for Premier Farnell, a company that
is a leading, high service, multi-channel distribution group supporting millions of engineers and purchasing professionals globally through its Group companies. Our products range from electronic components to industrial products from over 3,500 leading suppliers

1 comment:

Witterings From Witney said...

Maybe the Bible holds a clue? - Assemble all MPs then get them to walk away from the electorate and then turn round and look back.

Salt problems - and democracy problems - solved.