Mr Peter Black has commented on my recent post 'Council's Revenge', making an unflattering comparison between my opinion and that of fellow Conservative, Jonathon Morgan AM, who represents Cardiff North. At issue is my criticism of the preparations made by Powys County Council to cope with wintry conditions on our roads.
My mild criticism was made before the recent heavy snow (which because of it's severity, has conveniently saved the Council embarrassment - in that all councils now have a problem). I had moved on, but Peter's comment, and sight of a letter to an Assembly Member from Transport Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, written on December 23rd has stirred me to revisit the issue. You could say that I'm rising to the bait.
Let's rewind a few weeks - to late November. I was born to be a Welsh hill sheep farmer, We tend to caution and 'worrying about a rainy day'. Every November, when I see gritting lorries spreading salt all over the place at the merest whiff of frost, I'm prone to muttering 'There will be none left when they need it". I used to proclaim, but I've been proved wrong so many times, that I now just mutter to myself. This year was no exception.
But there was no need to worry. Just before Christmas, Powys County Council informed us that they had a 'plan' were would deal with all possible eventualities. And on 23rd December, Ieuan Wyn Jones informed Andrew Davies AM that "we have taken steps to ensure the 2009/10 winter period passes with the minimum of disruption, should there be a prolonged cold period of severe winter weather". The letter ended "....and we will all be better placed to deal with periods of severe winter weather should they occur". Just two weeks later, and before the recent snow fall, Powys and other county councils were reporting that salt stocks had almost disappeared. Seems to me that its entirely reasonable to ask questions about what happened to 'the plan'.
And the situation in Powys is rather different from Swansea and Cardiff North, which Peter and Jonathon represent. In Powys, the Council plan to salt just 15% of the highway network anyway. The reality is that farms, and people living in rural areas have just been abandoned. I can see that following the moderately heavy snow, the Council cannot do much about it now. I just do not think that fairly mild criticism of how this situation came about was unreasonable.