Sunday, August 03, 2008

I've caught people's attentions...

My last post and the email it described has attracted a number of responses.

To open with I'll point out, to those who might not know, that my street has now been cleaned up. I suspect this is only temporary, I'm depressingly sure that the same residents and businesses will once again pile their rubbish up at the top of the road. However for now something has been done, I can only hope that that something included actually tackling the causes of the filth and not just the filth.

Have a look at the post for all the comments made there but here's a summary of everything that's gone on.

Monday 28th of July
Coucillor Janet Gillman emails me twice with an impressive average word count of 9 words per message. To be fair though one of the emails was blank. She told me that she had forward the email on to Councillor Maureen O'Mara who is responsible for Cleansweep. This response, in a way, goes right the heart of the problem. Cleansweep are a reactive group who clean up mess when it occurs. To the best of my knowledge Waste Services are the ones who are responsible for the longer term management of the problem. Greenwich Council, and Cleansweep in particular, actually do do a decent job of cleaning up when they've been made aware of something. However all they do is keep reacting and seemingly do little, or little that actually has any impact, to tackle the cause.

Tuesday 29th of July
I'm emailed by someone, who's name I have but will omit, from the Greenwich Contact Centre. Last Sunday as well as the email I reported the problem online to Cleansweep. There's a ridiculously tight word limit to what you can enter so all I managed was this:

Other information: Between number 2 and the top of the street and down the alley between number 1 and the top of the street.

Description: Blue Clear Away bin between #2 and the top of the road full of rubbish and smells. Outside #2 are green bins full of plastic bags also smelling. Alleyway between #1 and top of the road also has green bins filled with plastic and sacks.

Their response was:

With reference to the green top bins that are full of plastic etc. Do they belong to any of the residents in Floyd Road.
It is the responsibility of the residents who these bins belong to, to contact us to get these bins emptied. However, I have raised a Service Request (ID 225927) to advise Waste Services that these bins need emptying.

With regards to the Clearaway Bin, Clearaway need to be contacted to get this bin emptied as this does not belong to the Council.

The first point seems almost dismissive of my report, which was nice.

The second shocked me. They seemed to be saying that the bin was nothing to do with them and that they weren't going to do anything about it, to get it cleaned up I would have to report it to Clearaway.

Excuse me but isn't dumping commercial waste on a residential road fly tipping? Isn't that kind of the Council's business or can any group leave what they want where they want?

I did email them back asking:

Thank you for your response. Should I not report overspilling bins to Cleansweep? As to the Clearaway bin is this being dealt with or are you saying that I need to contact Clearaway myself to get it removed?

I've heard nothing back from them.

Councillor Gary Parker also emailed me. He did this to my email address for this site and not the one which I used to send the email. That does show that at least he remembers me and has got something filed away under my name. A small touch but one that did quite impress me.

He had this to say:

I was already aware of issues on Floyd Road, I have spoken to Jim Wintour and action should have been taken today to deal with the backlog of waste today; recent industrial action in waste services due to national pay issues may also be a contributory factor here, there is more planned in September, unless the dispute is resolved. Jim Wintour will be writing to you in the next few days with an update on the situation, if there are further issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

So the mess was the fault of the national strike? Really? What about all the other times that the same people and businesses have fouled the top of my street? The strike doesn't really have anything to do with this at all, well apart from their possibly being a delay in getting it cleaned up. This once again goes back to my point about all we see Greenwich Council being is reactive and not proactive.

However he did successfully prompt Jim Wintour into action, as we shall see in a bit.

Thursday 31st of July
An appropriately named commentator commented:

Isnt it about time you start having a go at th pigs that live in your local area creating this problem ie the residents rather than blaming the council for the scum that live in your street?

I've had that kind of comment before. My response is that yes it is the fault of the residents and businesses who make the mess. However the Council have implemented a new, and somewhat complicated, scheme with seemingly no thought given to what to do when it goes wrong. It's been over 7 months now and still there are repeated problems. To begin with it seemed to be just residential waste that piled up, now however certain shop owners have cottoned on to the fact that the Council do nothing about the causes of the problem and have added their waste to the pile. The Council may not be the direct cause, however as the creators of the new scheme (which incidentally I do support) they have a duty to see that it's implementation does not cause problems. When problems are caused they have a duty to keep the streets clean.

I also hear from Jim Wintour, the director of Neighbourhood Services.

He said this:

Your ward councillors have contacted me about your concerns about Floyd Road. Indeed I should make it clear that your ward councillors have been assiduous and consistent in pressing me for a higher standard of waste collection, particularly in Floyd Road.

The new waste collection service has had many successes. For example, the percentage of waste recycled has increased from 24% in 2006/7 to 42% now.

The service has also had its problems, particularly with black bags. We have listened to what residents told us and taken action. The Council has agreed to offer all households black topped bins to place their residual rubbish in. Owing to the European shortage of bins we will not be able to introduce this until March 2009. In the meantime we are putting more intense efforts into collecting black bags and bins with incompatible rubbish.

There have been particular issues in Floyd Road. The road is closed to vehicles, making collection more difficult. However, I can only apologise for the unemptied bins on Sunday 27 July. I attach a photo which I took on the morning of Wednesday 30 July and you can see the bins had been emptied.

Some residents in Floyd Road still seem uncertain about recycling. You may wish to draw your neighbours’ attention to our website, setting out what rubbish goes in what bin, and when black bags are collected. The website is at:

In conclusion, can I again thank you for the hard work that you and your colleagues do. The reports from concerned citizens like you are essential to delivering a cleaner and a greener Greenwich.

So my Councillors have been "assiduous and consistent in pressing" for cleaner streets? 7 months of pressure? With no end to the problems? Make your own mind up on that one...

As with Councillor Parker and the national strike Jim Wintour wheels out the water works as a partial cause of the problem. As with the strikes though the water works are a one off event, the same problems have been going on in my street for months, there's no connection there.

Yes some residents are unsure about the recycling so why don't the Council go and actually talk to those people? We all know who they are. You know reach out and make contact? I really don't see it as my job to go up and down my street trying to sort people out who for all I know could be not the most pleasant of characters. Don't we pay Council Tax to keep the streets clean? I would, and have had to, talk to my immediate neighbours about certain issues and between us we've sorted them out. However am I meant to take on that role for the entire street?

Saturday 2nd August
I get a surprise comment from Councillor Paul Webbewood of the Liberal Democrats.

Well the Liberal Democrat councillors put down the following motion at last Wednesday's Council:
(sorry it's a bit long)

"Council wishes to take stock following the introduction of the part-fortnightly rubbish collection system in January 2008.

Council notes that estimated recycling levels between January-March 2008 were 42%, compared to 24% in the whole of 2006-07. Compostable rubbish has increased fourfold following the introduction of the separate collections for food and garden waste.

Less positively Council notes many complaints about untidy streets due to the greater use of black bags.

Council welcomes the decison to purchase bins which will be offered to residents to use for non-recyclable rubbish in place of black bags, although it notes that this may cost over £1 million and believes that the problems should have been foreseen earlier.

Council notes that, while it is frustrating that a minority of residents are not co-operating with the new collection arrangements, it is not accepatble to leave bins deliberately uncollected even if they contain the wrong type of rubbish.

Council therefore:

1, Thanks all staff involved with the new rubbish collection system;

2. Congratulates new residents who have contributed to the increased recycling levels;

3. Apologises to residents for the extra mess on our Borough's streets since January;

4. Calls on Councillors Roberts and Sidhu to repeat this apology in a signed article in Greenwich Time;

5. Guarantees that all bins will be collected promptly even when contaminated by the wrong type of rubbish;

6. Will collect black bags weekly until the bins for residual waste become avaialble;

7. Will use all available powers to deal with residents who consistenetly fail to separate their rubbish in the proper way. Where such residents are private tenants Council will endeavour to make the owner of the property take responsibility for any such failure"

This was voted down by both the Tories (who at least had an alternative motion) and by Labour (who clearly resented discussing this in public). Deputy Leader Peter Brooks clearly wasn't interested and his only contribution to the debate was a bogus point of order.

All very interesting.

However if the opposition really do care about the borough then why not come out here with your camera and a journalist or two and really make a big deal about this issue. Perhaps they already are, but if so why aren't I hearing anything about it?

We have a real and demonstrable example of the failings of this Council on the streets of Greenwich. Use it.

Councillor Allan MacCarthy
Councillor MacCarthy gets a heading all to himself.

I heard nothing from him.

I presume he's too busy with his new role as Deputy Mayor, before then he was always so prompt with his responses and committed with his actions.

Oh wait, hang on, no he wasn't.

I've got an image of him spending the time that he used to spend ignoring the needs of his electors spending it sneaking into the Mayors Office, putting on the pointed hat and spinning round on the chair going "wheeeeeee!". Oh that and still ignoring the needs of those that put him where he his.

The Conclusions...
Congratulations to anyone who's made it this far!

We've seen a whole lot of hot air spouted above, a fair proportion of it from me. So is anything going to change? Will we see a real desire to resolve the problems? Will the opposition parties swing into action and really tackle the Council over this? I'd put money on the answer to those questions being "no".

Remember, as I found out, Waste Services are severely under resourced. Their rules of engagement are also being limited by "political" constraints, namely over their desire to use the law to tackle the persistent offenders.

I think I'm right to be pessimistic over this being any change in the tide, I think I've got the historic evidence and an explanation of how the system works that back me up.

But come on, someone out there prove me wrong.


Inspector Sands said...

Hahaha -Wintour's e-mail is laughable
You're right, though - the essential problem here is that the council's service is reactive; as if they only do the bare minimum needed to get by. This ain't good enough.

As for doing something about the pigs, I fear a vigilante group may be excessive. But it's very satisfying to block their front gates with the bins they leave out on the pavement. It usually works as well.

J J said...

Surely it is the Councils' responsibility to keep the streets clean, empty the bins and make sure everyone complies with the bye-laws regarding waste disposal.

If the Council are not doing their job, why don't you report them to the Local Government Ombudsman?

Good luck!!!

Anonymous said...

"Owing to the European shortage of bins we will not be able to introduce this until March 2009".

Pure Reggie Perrin, and the best thing I've read in any official corrspondence ever.

Talking rubbish! said...

Ofcourse its a reactive service - it has to react to all the scum that dont take the easy steps of sorting their waste.

if the scum that caused all the problems actually sorted their act out - not only would it save us all council tax - it would also mean that the service could wouldnt be so stretched

I really dont get why people are letting their neighbours get away with murder in some cases.

Inspector Sands said...

What do you suggest, person with a weird name? Stringing them up from lamp posts? Armed militia? Arson? Or sitting behind a keyboard, muttering "scum!" but not pulling your own finger out?

Barbara said...

Seems like nithing in this brough ever changes, & if there is this shortage of bins how come 1080,000 results come up for a search "buy wheelie bin" on google!!!

talking rubbish! said...

Inspector Sands - thank you for being the all knowing person you think you are and telling me that I dont get my finger out.

As always you are talking from a position of ignorance.

Unlike some, naming no names, I dont just sit on line all day moaning.

I'm actively involved in my community in Plumstead Common Environmental Action Group and regularly take place in local graffiti removal/litter clearing.

Perhaps if you got a life (and a hobby) you could join in some of this good work yourself???

Inspector Sands said...

Ooooh, you council types, you're such fun. G'wan, giss a kiss, you love your public really, don't you?