The Highways Agency and local councils were "poorly prepared" for the pre-Christmas freeze that brought much of the UK to a standstill, Palmer & Harvey has claimed.

The delivered wholesaling giant, which makes 48,000 food and drink deliveries a week to more than 63,000 corner shops, c-stores and forecourts, said the sterling efforts of P&H shouldn't hide the fact that more needed to be done to make sure roads were properly cleared.

"A huge network of shopkeepers and their customers were relying on us, and our people were determined to go that extra mile," said operations director Julian Streeter.

Additional drivers were brought in and essential staff were put up in B&Bs or collected in 4x4 ­vehicles to make sure they could get to work. "However, councils and the Highways Agency were poorly prepared. Many major arterial roads, including several motorways, were closed. We needed more support from those in charge of our transport infrastructure."

West Wales, central Scotland, Devon, Cornwall, Kent, Lincolnshire and the Midlands were worst affected, Streeter added.

Shoppers turned to their local shops in the bad weather, Streeter said, with sales of bread and milk in stores served by P&H up 191%, cold and flu remedies up 47% and ready meals sales up 25%.