By Marcus Leach
Council leaders are calling on residents and landlords to look out for vulnerable neighbours and tenants as more severe weather is predicted over the weekend.
Gritters were out in force last night as snow carpeted much of the country and heavy rain, strong winds, snow and ice is predicted to last until Monday in many areas, particularly northern England and Wales.
Councils are receiving up-to-the-minute forecasts from weather experts and gritters are on standby to hit the roads at a moment's notice. Snow warden schemes are being implemented and town hall websites and Twitter feeds constantly updated with information on local forecasts, road conditions, gritting routes and services.
However, councils also need their communities to be their eyes and ears and look out for the vulnerable who risk being forgotten as people close themselves away from the lashing rain and freezing nights. Landlords must also carry out any heating repairs they know are needed so tenants aren't left shivering in their own homes.
"Councils have got more salt this year along with better plans and new technology to make it go further. They've installed and filled thousands of extra grit bins, given equipment to parish councils, community groups and snow wardens, and their websites will be constantly updated with the latest information. We're more prepared than we've ever been to keep roads safe and traffic moving," Cllr Peter Box, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Economy and Transport Board, said.
"Highways, street-cleaning and park staff could also be drafted in to help clear snow and ice around places like shops, schools and sheltered accommodation. Others will be delivering hot meals, collecting prescriptions, delivering portable heaters, defrosting pipes, and arranging basic checks on residents they know are vulnerable to make sure they're okay.
"Council staff can't be everywhere however and they 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. Postmen, milkmen and paperboys can also be life-savers by ringing the bell if they notice something unusual.
"Landlords need to be conscientious and check their tenants' heating is working or carry out as soon as possible any repairs they know are needed. Landlords have important responsibilities to their tenants and it's simply unacceptable to knowingly put off any boiler repairs, particularly as winter is now setting in proper. Councils will step in and force them to do the job if needs be."
Private landlords have responsibilities to their tenants and if they do not carry out repairs in regard to meeting minimum requirements, such as replacing broken boilers, the council can step in to ensure the work is carried out. The council negotiates with the landlord and if the repair is still not carried out it can serve an Enforcement Notice on them to get the work done. If the landlord doesn't co-operate, the council can either get the work done themselves and then recharge the landlord or prosecute the landlord.
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