Households urged to look out for vulnerable during cold snap

Media release 10 January 2017

As temperatures fall to below freezing this week, households are being urged to be alert and ensure vulnerable friends, neighbours and relatives are safe while council teams work around the clock to grit thousands of miles of roads.

An Arctic maritime air mass from northern Canada is set to produce a severe period of freezing weather, starting with a cold northerly wind, which will hit parts of Wales, Devon and Cornwall.

The Local Government Association's annual Winter Readiness Survey shows that councils are well prepared for plummeting temperatures with 1.2 million tonnes of grit to dig in to.

Council teams are also on standby to help with everything from carrying out emergency household repairs like defrosting pipes and fixing frozen boilers to delivering hot meals and portable heaters, and will be checking in on elderly and vulnerable residents to make sure they are okay.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging people to show extra vigilance following cold weather warnings. In particular, councils want residents to look out for people who live alone – estimated to be more than half (51 per cent) of people aged 75 and over.

Council gritting lorries will be out treating thousands of miles of roads whenever overnight temperatures drop below zero in the coming days and local authorities will be keeping residents up-to-date with information on weather forecasts, road conditions and gritting activity.

More than 80 per cent of councils have placed community grit bins for residents to access salt for pavements and side streets and 75 per cent are using state-of-the-art GPS technology on the gritting fleets.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Transport spokesman, said: 

"Councils are constantly monitoring up-to-the-minute weather reports and remain fully prepared to protect residents and minimise disruption caused by the drop in temperatures with 1.2 million tonnes of salt stockpiled and a fleet of state-of-the-art gritters ready to be deployed.

"As well as gritting our roads and clearing snow, council teams are ready to be drafted in to help provide a variety of services to ensure we are looking out for the more vulnerable members of our communities, from carrying out emergency household repairs to delivering hot meals and portable heaters.

"Councils are pulling out all the stops to ensure vital help and support is provided to the needy and vulnerable. But council staff can't be everywhere.

"As the freeze sets in we need everyone in our communities to be on the look-out for signs that something might be wrong. Whether it be milk bottles left outside, newspapers stuck in the letterbox or curtains drawn all day, any sort of unusual activity could be a sign that something is wrong and that someone is in need of help.

"Councils rely on community-spirited residents to look out for each other. Just a quick knock on the door of an elderly neighbour who's perhaps too proud or unable to ask for help can make all the difference. They may just need an extra blanket getting down from the loft or perhaps they didn't get out to collect their medicine this week.

"It takes no time to check in but could potentially save lives."


The LGA's Research and Information team conducted an online survey of all highways authorities in England and Wales who carry out winter weather gritting activities (all councils except districts). Findings are from fieldwork which took place between 3 October and 31 October 2016 with a response rate of 47 per cent (81 councils).

The LGA has an online resource called 'Winter watch' which aims to keep member councils, the public and the media abreast of the winter-related work going on in villages, towns and cities across the country. It contains a Q&A on winter issues, services and gritting, the latest LGA press releases, local case studies and other documents related to winter resilience. It can also act as a forum for people to share their views and ideas and is regularly updated.

Highways authorities (county, unitary, metropolitan and London borough councils) are responsible for nine out of every 10 miles of road – about 200,000 miles in England and Wales. The Highways Agency covers motorways and major A roads, while Transport for London covers arterial trunk roads in London.

Cold Weather Plan for England

10 January 2017

Greg Burns
Deputy Head of News and Internal Communications
Phone: 020 7664 3184

Winter watch

The latest LGA press releases, local case studies and other documents related to winter resilience