It Was Twenty Years Ago Today (Not)...

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So here a question: in how many consecutive years must something happen before it stops being a once-in-twenty-year event? I only ask because it would be nice if the people who pretend to run the country were at least a bit prepared for such an event.

I refer, of course, to the recent snow we've had here in Britain. Tales abound of services failing, lack of capability to manage the situation, and general incompetence. For example, despite the fact that, with the exception of the three worst days, everyone in our village has managed to get to work without a problem, there have been no letter post or parcel deliveries for nearly two weeks. Dustbins and recycling bins have not been emptied for three weeks, and there's been absolutely no sign of any council workers attempting to improve the situation for local taxpayers.

Talking to a colleague who lives in a similarly sized residential district in the US, it's interesting to compare how they handle winter weather conditions. Their local council emails residents with details of its plans, ploughs and grits the local roads, and delivers a pallet of rock salt for residents to use to keep paths and drives clear. Our council promised us a grit bin after the snow last year, but it's never materialized. And, best of all, a visit to their web site revealed that "they'd love to receive photos of the winter conditions for their picture gallery", yet there was absolutely nothing about how they plan to fulfil their duties of managing their district's needs.

Yes, I'm aware of the argument that we can't afford to have equipment standing around all year just in case it snows. But surely there must be some ways that they can be prepared and actually do something when it occurs, without investing millions of pounds in fancy snow blowing machines. A simple snowplough on the front of the gritting trucks would help, and some attempt to clear the side streets as well as the main roads would be nice. A local farmer happened to be passing last week and it took him five minutes to clear the worst from our road. Why don't the council have some official plan for farmers who can't get onto their land at this time of year to clear snow when required?

But I suppose the stories on the TV news and in the papers reveal the real depth of our country's incompetence. The council has to preserve grit stocks because they can't be replenished - the grit delivery trucks are stuck in the snow! Health and safety rules mean that refuse and recycling collectors cannot work when there is ice on the paths. And the highways department requires anyone who wants to use machinery on a public highway to complete a training course and apply for a special license. So that's OK then, we can take comfort from the fact that everything grinds to a halt because of the usual health and safety concerns...

However, where there really is a concern is with the web. Can internet shopping survive another year of late and non-deliveries without people deciding it's just not worth the hassle? I ordered a snow shovel a week before the worst of the snow came, and it's still somewhere in transit (probably the driver is using it to dig himself out as we speak). Even my new Windows Phone, which is coming by courier, has spent two weeks wandering between depots without seemingly getting any nearer here.

According to the managers of the major delivery companies and the post office, interviewed on TV during the "crisis", we can expect the disruption in deliveries to continue through to the New Year, and that's if there is no more snow. They say that they are working 24 hours a day to catch up, but that it's seemingly an impossible task; and suggest that people should not rely on getting anything delivered in time for Christmas. But, unless somebody built a few million new houses last week, surely they should be pleased about the economies of scale that the compression of deliveries will produce? 

I read in the paper that a record 832,000 pounds was being spent on the internet every hour here in the UK last week, so there's a very large pile of undelivered goods somewhere...

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It Was Twenty Years Ago Today (Not)...