This blast of Arctic weather will not help our economy haul itself out of recession. This week our large companies that need gas to manufacture have been told to stop burning gas so the rest of us can stay warm. The government has failed to organise sufficient gas storage, as part of its general energy policy failure. Some shops have not opened, others have closed early to allow their staff to get home in slightly better conditions. Many offices have been operating on skeleton staffs. Those who have tried to carry on as normal have found it almost impossible to get parcels, letters and cheques delivered, and to get the stocks and supplies they need. Big retailers may still be counting the good news from a few better trading days around the change of the year, but things are not so good this week.
It is true some have experienced boom conditions. Sales of domestic energy will be strongly up. Specialist clothing, shovels, boots and other snow equipment are in strong demand. This will not make up for the general loss of output that has come from the collapse of the transport system. All too many employees have not reached their companies to do their jobs. Many schools have been closed for the duration of the bad weather. Those shops that do open often have empty shelves owing to a shortage of particular goods or the inability of the delivery system to get them to the stores.
Why has this happened? It has happened owing to the failure of the Highways Authority to have enough grit at its disposal, and enough vehicles to distribute it and to plough the heavy snow away from the roads. Our mad legal system has put many off clearing their own section of pavement and side road. There is no sense of urgency to get the job done, to get the system functioning. We seem unwilling to spend a bit more on salt and hiring lorries to clear the highways, whilst being willing to spend a small fortune on more fractures as people slip on the ice and snow.
We do look to government to organise the roads and railway lines. They own them and are responsible for them. If they are not open for business, nor is the rest of the economy. We can ill afford lost output. We need to work more and earn more, to start to tackle our massive debts. Instead we are having an enforced endless Christmas holiday as people linger at home, afraid to venture out. The government will be one of the big losers, as it means more revenue loss for the state on all those sales and profits forgone.