Whenever the weather adversely effects people the response of the authorities is generally along the lines “We don’t control the weather”. If for the purpose of this article we put aside the issue of climate change and take this statement at face value, even then we can see that this does not tell the full story.
If we take for example three major natural disasters over the last decade and in each case it was the response to these events or lack of response in reality that caused much of the destruction. Seen in the cases of the 2004 tsunami, the Haitian earthquake and particularly with Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster which hit the world's superpower, the United States were shamed by their response, exacerbated by the much better response by the Cuban regime as the same hurricane hit Cuba first.
Obviously the recent snow in Wales and the rest of Britain has not in any way been of the same magnitude, yet there are similarities. Much of the disruption and risk to peoples safety could have easily been avoided. That is, of course, if the capitalist drive for short term profit is taken out of the equation.
The advances in weather forecasting, whilst not always 100% accurate were able to predict well in advance the oncoming snow. Yet local authorities did not adequately prepare to avert serious problems. The usual half hearted gritting occurred in some areas, yet local authorities have said openly they limited this as to keep enough stockpiled for the whole winter. Yet this leads to a completely ineffectual cost-cutting exercises which will mean councils can publicly say they have enough grit to last through and have been out gritting, nice soundbites but the reality has meant that roads in the large remain iced and dangerous. A situation unlikely to change when councils are carrying out huge cuts.
Though it is clear that gritting for the latest round of snow was completely redundant anyway, the grit could have absolutely no effect once it is buried under eight inches of snow, yet the same limited road gritting continued by local authorities in drone fashion. This led to many major access roads, such as Llantrisant road in Pontypridd, (used heavily by commuters on the way to work) being completely inpassable with scenes of many cars simply abandoned by the drivers as it was impossible to go anywhere.
Instead of this inadequate response, the local authorities who were fully aware of the scale of the oncoming snow should have employed whole teams of people to shovel snow from roads and pavements, of course provided with adequate equipment to work in this weather. Many council vehicles, with some investment and adaption, could have been fitted with snow plows to clear the roads and snow tyres or chains fitted to vehicles which could transport around nurses, doctors and other essential workers to aid the care for the most vunerable and at risk from the cold weather. This could have gone along way to ensuring a safe environment in this bad weather and would have had a serious effect of the unemployment figures albeit temporarily.
Of course whilst all four main parties in Wales are spreading the mantra that we have to make cutbacks as somekind of universal truth then this unfortunately is not likely to happen, central government have already made it clear that equipment to deal with snow in the future has to be 'balanced against other services, as something else will have to go if we invest here'. The reality has been cars sliding of the road, or stuck and situations where the safest place for pedestrians, particularly the most vunerable who are unsteady on their feet is to walk in the middle of the road as no obvious attempt has been made to clear the footpaths even now.
This issue is a prime example of how politics affects everything and how it always has a direct effect on us. I've already used the example of the inadequate response of the Rhonnda Cynon Taf council which covers Pontypridd, but it seems very doubtful that a Labour council currently threatening to sack 10,000 of its workforce is likely to put the safety of it residents first by employing anyone to clear the streets, and this is the same for every local authority in Wales which have one by one committed themselves to cutting back to make ordinary people pay the rich man's debt.