WHENEVER winter comes, the bouquets and brickbats start flying as residents' demands for help either exceed or fail expectations.
This year, winter came early following a dismal summer and autumn with wet weather being prevalent throughout. This nurtured an early winter time bomb; the water table topped up to capacity and saturated ground with nowhere for the rain to go but to run off and collect where it shouldn't.
How local authorities and national agencies cope with emergencies has over the past few years been in the spotlight far more than ever. The threat of flooding or heavy snowfall such as in 2010 left us all with a dilemma; how to deal with it just as money began to shrink due to cuts in government funding. Also local authority income dropped as council tax zero per cent rises became the norm. The end result is clear for all to see with very little ability to stand still, let alone increase resources. Ability to respond to disasters or weather-related civil emergencies has become far too hit or miss with you, the public, having your homes and possessions ruined through poor maintenance and lack of money.
Mid Devon District Council recently asked residents to prioritise services and funding, flooding and weather related resilience measures were not highlighted at all. Refuse and recycling came top of the list followed by environmental health and housing.
Parks and street cleaning were rated by half the respondents as important with leisure, planning, grants and public conveniences coming bottom of the list.
The leader of Devon County Council repeated his road show programme asking residents to where the cuts should go. After last month, I do wonder if council tax payers' priorities might have changed. One thing I know, at the height of the rain storms of the past month I found out how precious a sand bag is, how difficult it is to get any for my constituents and just about selling my soul to the devil to eventually achieve it. Councils switching to out of hours service just when the public needs bags is not satisfactory and being told to go to the local DIY store to buy them equally wrong.