OPINION: Glastonbury offers councils a lesson

Torrential rain, flash floods, Boscastle under threat and a sea of mud at Glastonbury…there is something so reassuringly predictable about the British summer. All we're missing so far is a hosepipe ban.

For those responsible for keeping an eye on natural disasters – warning residents at risk about them and clearing up after the mess – it’s a busy time and perhaps not always quite so predictable.

Although it’s a fair bet that we will have some appalling weather at some point in any summer, just where and when it is going to hit – and what damage it is going to cause – is not actually that easy to forecast.

This puts all sorts of stress on local authorities that might be suddenly tipped into crisis mode by an unexpectedly large quantity of wet stuff.

Residents will naturally turn to their local council as a first port of call. So having extensive preparations, well-rehearsed crisis planning and exceptionally clear, simple, reassuring communications is a must. Those unable to provide basic help and information to fearful local residents will not easily be forgiven.

Central government, too, has a vital role to play, and the Environment Agency will these days tell you everything from how at risk your home might be to how to fill a sandbag. You can even download a ‘Damage Limitation’ guide, which would come in handy for at least two clients of ours I can think of.

The fact is that in some areas of life we still need really good interventionist government, at both local and central levels. There are some things, such as the weather, that really only can and should be handled by the public sector, with good communications central to this role.

As trendy thinker Alain de Botton puts it: ‘There’s nothing wrong with a nanny state, so long as it’s a good nanny.’


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