Noticed any changes in how clean your street is? Changes in Greenwich Council’s street cleaning services are being discussed by a panel of councillors on Tuesday – with a special focus on Charlton.
Internal changes in how the service is run means streets are now – apparently – swept on the same day as rubbish and recycling are collected. For most of Charlton, that will mean Monday, although for some streets towards Maryon Park this is Thursday.
Councillors on the Community Safety and Environment Panel will be reviewing the progress of the new arrangements at Woolwich Town Hall on Tuesday evening.
A report presented by council officers reveals cuts in funding have hit a service which already gets less cash per resident than neighbouring Lewisham and Southwark boroughs, with street cleaning services predicted to overspend by £1.6 million this year (or 8/10ths of a tall ships regatta).
It also claims that “perceptions that streets are not as clean as they have been in the past” are just perceptions, as fewer people are contacting the council to complain – although in August, Greenwich borough failed more than one in ten inspections of street detritus.
A separate report admits there have been specific problems in Charlton – but not all streets are getting the attention needed to deal with the issue.
Earlier this year, part of Plumstead got an “environmental taskforce” to deal with flytipping and other issues. The approach, the report says, “proved successful”, so has resulted in similar teams “being deployed in the Charlton area following a meeting with the Charlton Church Residents Association [sic] in December 2015″.
So, if you live in the area covered by Charlton Central Residents Association – along with a stretch of Charlton Church Lane, Floyd Road and the Valley Grove Estate – you should be getting extra street cleaning and prompt attention to flytipping.
The report says: “The introduction of the Charlton Taskforce has improved the public realm, especially around the Charlton station area where litter was a particularly problem [sic] and in the vicinity of Charlton Athletic FC, where street cleansing operations are now more effectively co-ordinated to coincide with home game fixture timings.”
However, it appears the rest of the area is still being neglected – something highlighted by Greenwich’s annual struggle to deal with autumn leaf fall.
I’ve heard anecdotal reports of streets not being swept for weeks on end – and there’s certainly evidence of leaves being left in piles and abandoned on Charlton Road and elsewhere rather than being bagged and taken away.
Unfortunately, dealing with Greenwich’s street services teams can be like a war of attrition.
After a Greenwich councillor claimed streets were being swept on Mondays, I thought I’d take some photos…
On Sunday 30 October, I took some pictures ahead of the supposed Monday sweep. Left is Wellington Gardens (in the area covered by the taskforce), right is Victoria Way.
On Wednesday 2 November, I returned. And guess what? The street covered by the taskforce had been swept. Victoria Way had been ignored. I later found a bag of leaves had been abandoned further down Victoria Way – it appeared a council cleaner had just walked off the job and left it there.
But even after presenting these photos to local councillor Gary Parker, who then pressed officers and senior councillors to act, it took Greenwich Council 10 days to bother sweeping the leaves off Victoria Way – and that was only after I copied local MP Matthew Pennycook into a follow-up complaint. There was no response to me from any of the council officers involved, although it was noticeable that neighbouring streets were ignored.
While the council is to be applauded for using the FixMyStreet system, it clearly isn’t using it properly – three separate reports of a dangerously bent lamp post on Victoria Way have been filed since last Thursday; nobody has acted on them at the time of publishing.
It’s also clear that council staff aren’t encouraged to report street issues themselves, as they are in Lewisham – refuse teams will have passed that bent lamp post three times on Monday.
FixMyStreet also reveals reports that anyone with a basic knowledge of the area will know have been simply ignored. They’ve been filed, but not carried out.
If the councillors take their job seriously, they should be looking at the map of complaints. And if council officers are recording a drop in complaints, it may be because people have lost confidence in the council’s ability to respond.
“Leaves and litter piling up at the beginning Canberra Rd, junction with Marlborough Lane and Charlton Road” (28 October)
“Rubbish needs sweeping up. Lots of paper rubbish and tree rubbish needs clearing up – it’s not been done for a few weeks.” (Marlborough Lane, 22 August)
“The top section of Victoria Way beside the shops has been getting more and more littered over the past few months. As well as being unsightly, it is encouraging or at least condoning littering in the area. Yesterday, I had to ask someone to pick their litter up when I saw them dropping crisp packets right on the pavement.” (15 August)
“This road has not been swept in months, leaves are now a major issue, causing blocked drains and dangerous conditions for pedestrians walking down Charlton Lane” (10 November)
“After 2+ months this side of the road on Bramhope Lane still hasn’t been swept.” (6 October)
It goes on. There are also numerous reports of flytipping in Charlton Lane and at the Woolwich Road end of Victoria Way, as well as Gallon Close – another reminder that the “taskforce” appears to be far too narrow in scope, and perhaps has been partly influenced by lobbying rather than data.
Has the taskforce worked for you? Did you even notice any difference? Please share your experiences below.