Robert Aldridge: Everyone can do their bit to keep city moving

I know how frustrating it is when many residential streets and pavements are still waiting to be cleared. I can assure you, though, that council staff are working 24 hours a day in all conditions to keep the city moving. But it is inevitable that it is going to take some time, so thank you all for your patience.

Our top priority is to keep the main routes open and making sure ambulance drivers and other emergency vehicles have access to city streets. Despite the worst snow we've experienced for half a century, we have managed to keep the city moving. Our fleet of 30 road gritters, 12 mini-tractors, four loading shovels and ten other vehicles are out every day and night.

Since the snow first fell last Friday night, we have used an average of 600 tonnes of salt a day - a total of close to 3000 tonnes. We still have over 4000 tonnes in stock and more on order.

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Our taskforce has received a welcome boost to their numbers thanks to street cleaners, gardeners, refuse collection staff and other council contractors who have all been drafted in to help clear snow from some of the worst hit neighbourhoods.

At the weekend, those contractors who usually work on general repairs were drafted in with JCB vehicles to supplement the 75 road staff, 180 task force staff and 65 refuse staff already re-organised to boost snow clearing efforts. Yesterday, an additional 100 council contractors were brought in to move the mountains of snow in the South-West, South and West neighbourhood areas.

It is inevitable that it is going to take some time to clear residential streets and I want to thank everyone for their patience during this unprecedented period. This also includes the public who can play an important part by helping clear drives, pathways and pavements and to keep a look-out for their elderly neighbours. Local businesses can also do, and are doing, their bit by helping to keep doorways clear from snow.

Concerns were raised last year that if someone was to slip after snow had been cleared, the person who cleared the snow could be liable for damages. I want to make it clear that this is not the case, and would encourage everyone who is willing and able to keep up the good work!

I am also really pleased to hear that voluntary groups have expressed an interest in helping to keep the city moving. Hopefully I will have more to report on that soon.

As with all workers across the city, council staff have faced a tremendous challenge in getting to work and I have been heartened by the many stories I have heard of their doggedness in braving the atrocious weather to ensure, as far as possible, that vital services are maintained to keep this city safe and on the move.

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Of course, the vital services that the council provide go beyond keeping the roads clear. Our teachers have made an extra effort to ensure that as many Edinburgh schools are open as possible, and our social workers are checking on people who are vulnerable.

It's important that people offer a helping hand or even just a friendly face to neighbours who may be in need. Social responsibility in action doesn't cost anything but can make a real difference to someone's life.

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Checking if an elderly neighbour upstairs would appreciate a pint of milk from the shops when you are going anyway would only take a minute, or they may simply appreciate a friendly chat but don't want to bother anyone.

We're delighted to have joined forces with Tesco to provide our most vulnerable citizens with emergency supplies. This service will be available to those who are assessed as having an urgent need and are unable to get to their local shops or don't have family members or neighbours who can help.

If you are concerned about someone who you feel should be getting assistance, you can contact the social care direct team at the council on 0131-200 2324, and staff there will arrange appropriate follow up. In the evenings and weekend the out-of-hours service is on 0800 731 6969.

n Robert Aldridge is city environment convener. Brian Monteith is away.