The Katrina Effect

Snow hit the UK last night and continues today following a government call to councils to reduce by half what little gritting they have been doing. The snow emergency in the UK will have the political effect, I suspect, that Katrina did in the US but on a larger, national scale.

Certainly, the government needs to rethink what it is communicating. Take the latest from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have just announced farmers could face fines if they grit snow-blocked roads using tractors powered on red diesel, the reduced-tax fuel permitted farmers.

Under current rules farmers can only grit roads if using tractors powered by white diesel – the standard fully-taxed diesel for trucks, vans and cars.

Geoff O’Connell, a parish councillor in Belford, Northumberland, told the Daily Mail newspaper: “Doesn’t anyone at HMRC realise that we are experiencing a national emergency, one of the worst outbreaks of Arctic weather for decades? Our farmers are doing their level best to feed their stock and get their produce to our supermarkets. Are farmers supposed to plough, then be unable to grit, sand and gravel their driveways to prevent further drifts because their tractors run on red diesel?

“To suggest that they return to their farms to drain fuel tanks to re-fill with fully-taxed white diesel before carrying out any other, sometimes lifesaving, ploughing activities for their friends and neighbours is unforgivable, heartless and totally impractical.”