When temperatures plunge and the snow and ice comes, we don’t just grit the roads in the West Midlands, we #wmgrit them! And I’d like to think our regional ‘Twitter-Gritter’ initiative has provided a useful public service over the last two winters.
The #wmgrit initiative brings together gritting alerts and other winter information tweeted by local authorities across the West Midlands.
We all use the same hashtag (#wmgrit) and people can access the combined information in a variety of ways.
The idea is that wherever you’re planning to travel within the region you can quickly check to see whose roads have been gritted – making it easier to plan your journey.
#wmgrit launched on December 1 2011 with seven councils: Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Solihull.
We were quickly joined by others, including Wolverhampton, Telford and Wrekin, Coventry, Worcestershire and Warwickshire
All we asked was that participating authorities added the #wmgrit hashtag to their gritting tweets.
The campaign uses CoverItLive, a live blogging platform that pulls in #wmgrit tweets from all participating organisations.
The feed can then be embedded on local authority websites, hyperlocal sites and has also been used by local newspapers on their websites.
We can’t guarantee the roads will be free of snow and ice – as colleagues in Walsall often remind the public, ‘Grit is not a magic substance’ But we can reassure people across the region that we’re on the case, doing everything we can to keep the roads safe and passable.
#wmgrit also recognises the great work done by our gritting crews. Throughout winter, often in the wee small hours when we’re all tucked up safe and sound in bed, these crews are out treating the roads. Most people don’t see them, so refuse to believe they’ve been out.
At least this way, even if the crews are out at 2am, we can alert people to the fact and it was nice to see a number of tweets last winter from members of the public simply saying thanks to the crews.
The other reason I’m particularly proud of the #wmgrit initiative is that it shows what can be achieved when councils work together.
In local government, we’re often accused – sometimes justifiably – of working in silos. But there are plenty of people who love to collaborate, share ideas and work together to improve services.
#wmgrit was born out of that collaborative spirit.
At a time when we’re all skint and all feeling a bit battered and bruised by cuts, cuts and more cuts, it brings together like-minded officers from across the region and shows local government at its best.
by Geoff Coleman from Birmingham City Council
and Birmingham City Council, Walsall Council, Dudley Council, Sandwell Council, Shropshire Council, Staffordshire County Council, Solihull Council, Wolverhampton Council, Telford and Wrekin, Coventry, Worcestershire and Warwickshire