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SNP call on council to beef up extreme weather plans following recent problems

Daily Record logoDaily Record 5 days ago Wishaw Press

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 also criticised the pressures staff were under and the limitations of the online reporting system, and is seeking assurances that any new digital systems to be introduced will be extensively tested before going live.

He also says that the current winter policy does not cover extreme events, citing the suspension of food waste services in several parts of North Lanarkshire as an example.

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 winter 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. This clear, concise information is also widely publicised on the council’s social media channels and on its website.

“The reporting tool for empty grit bins has been available on the website for some time and is functional. Because the council’s available resource is deployed during winter weather dealing directly with clearing snow and ice, it takes some time to refill grit bins.

“Finally, specific information about any service disruption is always available on the council website at www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk.”

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