Monmouthshire County Council staff have worked to support the community as temperatures have dropped and snow has fallen. The county has resembled a beautiful scene from Narnia, but cold conditions can be frightening for vulnerable people – that’s where the council has come in to support everyone.
Despite deteriorating conditions Monmouthshire’s community meals service Monmouthshire Meals made every scheduled delivery to vulnerable residents, many living in isolated rural areas. Catering Manager Pauline Batty said: “The staff have been fantastic with one member coming in from annual leave to help cover those who couldn’t make it through the snow. Please contact us if you know anyone who needs a warm meal – we’re happy to help.”
Community spirit came to the fore in Govilon where a Good Samaritan helped to dig a Monmouthshire Meals van out of the snow. Mrs Frances Baines of School Lane who witnessed the good turn said: “Six inches of snow this morning, and an ungritted road didn’t deter our brave Monmouthshire driver from delivering warm food to our elderly Govilon residents today. She needed a little help getting her van out of Steven’s Crescent, but soon continued on her round, undaunted. I think she deserves a commendation for her excellent work today.” Pauline Batty added; “We’d like to thank the Good Samaritan who helped dig out our van in Govilon allowing our driver to deliver the rest of the meals on board.”
Care at home services across the county worked hard to minimise disruption with staff doing much work on foot while liaising with families and colleagues to ensure everyone was safe and supported. The council used its 4×4 vehicles to access people in remote areas.
Monmouthshire’s Carline service supported a local family by bringing forward an installation to a vulnerable client in order for the family to get back home a day early in the severe weather conditions. Sarah Turvey-Barber said: “It’s wonderful to be able to support the community – the cold weather can be scary for some people. Anyone living in Monmouthshire can have access to Careline products. From 65p a day you can have a lifeline installed in your home including a pendant that can be worn around the neck or the wrist.”
Day services at Abergavenny’s Mardy Park and Chepstow’s Severn View social services premises were closed on Monday and all concerned were contacted, with additional support provided where necessary. The council’s residential services teams at Mardy Park and Severn View coped well with staff making their way to work on foot or collected if unable to drive.
Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for social care and health said: “Our teams have been amazing across all services – community meals, residential, day care and care at home. I’d also like to mention our colleagues in the community nursing teams. They are a critical part of our integrated services and they consistently go above and beyond the call of duty.”
By Monday afternoon the county’s primary highways were clear as are many secondary and other roads. Highways teams worked around the clock to escalate this process, bringing in additional resources to help. Many side roads on high ground were dealt with by Tuesday. Over the period, twelve lorries salted, ploughed and patrolled roads, assisted by contractors who ploughed and cleared fallen trees and hazards. It has been a real team effort with bus drivers scheduled to provide transport to schools subsequently closed stepping in to support the community by clearing roads and pavements. Waste collection teams also cleared roads to keep everyone safe.
The council’s 24 hour patrolling and pre-salting road treatment will end on Tuesday evening and will return to its standard regime of providing teams on standby available to pre-salt when required. Recycling and waste collection staff supported highways colleagues in clearing the snow with tractors from car parks, town centres and community buildings on Sunday. Feedback from residents has been tremendous with resident Larry Stoter of The Narth commenting on Facebook that: “Having had to drive from just outside London to Monmouth yesterday – taking nearly eight hours – Monmouthshire roads were much better than in many places. Well done and thank you to all.”
Rubbish and recycling across the county was collected the following day with the exception of rural routes. Collections in and around Abergavenny caused difficulty though routes were cleared for Tuesday’s collection. The council will endeavour to catch up in inaccessible areas throughout the week but will prioritise rubbish and food recycling collections, asking residents, where possible, to store their recycling for next week.
Household waste & recycling centres at Mitchel Troy, Llanfoist and Usk were closed on Sunday. Mitchel Troy and Llanfoist re-opened on Monday with the Usk site open by Tuesday. The Five Lanes site near Caerwent remained open as usual.
Councillor Bryan Jones, cabinet member for county operations said: “Our collection and grounds maintenance crews are working closely with other front line staff to clear hospitals, OAP complexes and town centres. We will do our very best to collect waste and recycling on the correct day but please bear with us and only report missed collections if absolutely necessary. We request residents to stay safe and not drive unless absolutely necessary – abandoned vehicles cause additional problems for gritters and emergency services.”
Monmouthshire’s education service has coped well. By 7.30am on Monday morning all schools had confirmed whether they would open or close. This provided parents, children and staff with ample opportunity to prepare for the situation. Emphasis has been placed on the safety of pupils and staff – most especially due to the heavy snow and treacherously icy conditions – as well as the fact that many staff lived in areas where travelling to work without the risk of harm was a serious issue.
The north of the county was most heavily hit but by Tuesday only three remained closed. A full list of closures was made available on the council’s website since Sunday morning: http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/school-closures
Thanks to the council’s agile working policy, many staff unable to travel to their normal workplace on Monday and Tuesday were able to log in anywhere with wi-fi using their laptops. The council’s community hubs, leisure centres and offices provide agile working areas so staff are able to work remotely – including from their homes – where they are contactable by telephone, email and various messaging services like Skype. Consequently, the severe weather didn’t impact particularly on the service provided by these employees.
The council closed its three museums in Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth on Sunday due to safety concerns for the public and staff travelling to the sites. Monmouth and Chepstow re-opened on Monday with Abergavenny re-opening on Tuesday.
Some community hubs and libraries operated a reduced service on Monday but all were back to normal by Tuesday though Abergavenny’s one stop shop closed for lunch due to staff shortage while Monmouth Community Hub closed in the afternoon for planned training.
Staff were busy on social media sending out regular bulletins on Facebook and Twitter and the council’s winter “splash page” was activated so everyone visiting the Monmouthshire website was directed towards contingencies and plans for bad weather – see @MonmouthshireCC on Facebook and Twitter for details.
Council leader Peter Fox said: “I’m very grateful for the duties efficiently and effectively carried out by council staff in severe snow and icy weather – great teamwork. Thank you to all of the residents who have been sending us lovely feedback and sharing magical photos of our beautiful county this winter. Times like this make me really proud.”