Councillors demand better emergency responses after Fenland Hall call met with recorded message before “phone went dead”
11:56 11 August 2014
Husband and wife Wisbech councillors Michael and Virginia Bucknor believe “lessons still need to be learned” about releasing information during an emergency.
The couple have today written to the leader of Fenland Council calling for all councillors to be kept better informed when flooding, or other emergencies, occur.
“As you know we have started a Wisbech Volunteer Flood Warden group and have around 10 volunteers,” they told Councillor John Clark.
“We spent the last few weeks leafleting people’s homes around Waterlees about getting signed up for the automatic alerts from the Environment Agency as the EA were concerned there were less than 300 people in Wisbech who were on their alert system.
“Last Wednesday we spent the day at the Wisbech Adventure Playground where we got a further 80 signed up and a further 12 at the Community House event on the Thursday. So we’re quite aware of what’s needed and how important good communication channels should be during an emergency.”
But two days later, when flooding hit the Fens and parts of Wisbech, the system creaked at its first attempt.
“Last Friday one of our volunteer flood wardens in Grosvenor Road telephoned Fenland Council and the emergency services because of the flood problems in that street,” they said.
Three days later “this street has had no support at all as far as residents who’ve provided these photographs and we are aware.”
Councillor Mrs Bucknor said that when she phoned Fenland Hall on Saturday she was met with a recorded call about council tax but told to “stay on the line if it’s an emergency. The phone then went dead.”
She said they had previously worked with David Vincent, the council’s emergency planning manager, but “unfortunately he was away on holiday and his email contact was the head of ICT as the alternate. But there was no phone number.”
Cllr Bucknor said she finally made contact with chief executive Paul Medd “who telephoned me and provided some FDC contact numbers”.
But she said that “lessons still need to be learned. The reluctance of officers to inform councillors but to just ‘get on with the job’ seems to be at the heart of this communication problem.
“At the very minimum an email could go out to all councillors when an emergency arises, advising who the contact point is at FDC for the particular emergency situation should it be required.”
Fenland Council is preparing a response which we hope to have available later in the day.