Labour’s get-tough policy with tippers looks a bit of a mess

“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” was the foreign policy of US President Teddy Roosevelt more than a hundred years ago.

The scene in Ashburton playing fields as shown today by the Evening Boris

The scene in Ashburton playing fields as shown today by the Evening Boris newspaper and website

“Don’t make an effing threat unless you’re prepared to carry it out,” was the more forthright message which Charlie Richardson used to spit into the faces of his victims when the notorious south London gangster of the 1960s was about to detach one appendage or another from their owner.

So it is that Croydon Council’s hard-line “Don’t Mess With Croydon” policy on fly-tipping, with posters around the borough threatening enforcement action and fines for offenders, is all looking a bit of a sorry mess this morning after the Evening Boris splashed pictures across the paper and its website of a “Grand Canyon of rubbish” dumped on Ashburton playing fields.

The council’s new campaign was the main plank of policy which got Labour elected to the Town Hall in May. A PR disaster such as the Standard’s coverage today is not helped when Croydon Labour’s deputy leader, Stuart Collins, the cabinet member in charge of slogans and T-shirts, has spent much of the weekend plastering himself over social media showing him flogging those “Don’t Mess” T-shirts.

“There’s everything from broken toilets to piles of office furniture all dumped in big mounds,” the Standard quotes one dog-walker.

“It’s like the Grand Canyon of rubbish and mess that you can walk through.”

Travellers get the blame for the Ashburton mess, though there doesn’t appear, yet, to be any direct proof of who was responsible. A group had parked up on the site last week (how did they get access?) and they were promptly moved on by council officials. The pictures published online yesterday and by the Standard today show the park after the travellers left, which alone may be a bit too circumstantial to secure a prosecution in the courts.

“The Council will write to all local residents calling for witnesses,” Collins said today. “If we can prove it they will pay.” And if the council can’t prove it..?

Today’s newspaper reports demonstrate an interesting quirk of local media coverage of Croydon.

The Evening Boris, especially when Veronica Wadley was its editor, was never much interested in the then Tory-controlled borough, despite the piles of rubbish dumped routinely around our parks, streets and open spaces, never mind the multitude of other short-comings of the council’s activity. Wadley was given a cushty job by the Mayor of London soon after Boris Johnson was re-elected in 2012. Coincidentally, of course.

So why is London’s evening paper so interested in this single instance of fly-tipping? Certainly, the local Tory MP, gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell, and his state-funded gobby factotum, Coulsdon’s new councillor Mario Creatura, were quick to seize on it for political capital.

“Why weren’t travellers made to clean up/arrested?” Barwell wrote on Twitter today. “Makes mockery of council’s Don’t Mess with #Croydon campaign.”

The Purley Way playing fields have also been dumped upon in the past fortnight, and shortly after a visit from some travellers, too. But that instance has not been so widely reported.

That may be because Purley Way isn’t in Barwell’s Croydon Central constituency. Croydon Central is regarded as a marginal at next year’s General Election. When the Conservatives lost control of the council in May, it was the loss to Labour of Ashburton ward for the first time in history which swung it against the Tories. And Ashburton is the scene of the “Grand Canyon” tip.

Councillor Stuart Collins, right, flogging T-shirts. It is not known whether unsold products will be sent to land-fill or for incineration

Councillor Stuart Collins, right, flogging T-shirts. It is not known whether unsold products will be sent to land-fill or for incineration

There is little doubt that the Ashburton incident is a spectacular set-back for Croydon Labour, and one mainly of their own making. Having spent more than a year criticising the Tory council for failing to keep our streets clean or to bring prosecutions (in 2012-2013, Conservative-run Croydon successfully prosecuted just 1 per cent of fly-tipping cases reported to the council), the new Labour council acted in great haste to publicise its new hard-line approach to anyone who dared “Mess With Croydon”.

What they failed to do, however, was first get in place the mechanisms and manpower to ensure that they could improve the situation and deliver on their promises, and the threats.

After a couple of inquiries from Inside Croydon, Collins has now responded about how many council workers are assigned to the matter. According to Collins, the department responsible has been run-down under the Tories and was working with just two-thirds of the staff it was supposed to have. Eight staff have been recruited and are due in post by the end of September.

Will these extra staff be enough to transform the previous 1 per cent prosecution rate for fly-tipping offences? Time will tell, though Charlie Richardson probably wouldn’t have started bandying around threats before he was fully tooled up.

And no one ever messed with Charlie.

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This entry was posted in Ashburton, Crime, Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Fly tipping, Gavin Barwell, Mario Creatura, Refuse collection, Stuart Collins and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Labour’s get-tough policy with tippers looks a bit of a mess

  1. davidcallam says:

    Typical politicians, of whichever party, always style over substance.

    The local elections in May were no magic bullet: the council was broke before the election and remains so now.

    It will take a lot more time and energy and concerted effort on the part of the Labour administration to find real savings so it can divert money into projects that will be of more benefit to the people of Croydon.

    In the meantime, the Tories are still hurting badly from the drubbing they received last May and determined to hang on to Croydon Central next May. They will take every opportunity to make the Labour council look like a bunch of idiots, including calling in a few favours from their friends in the media.

    The best response to the Ashburton and Purley Way problems is to find the people responsible and prosecute them to the maximum in a blaze of publicity. That would also have the desirable effect of making others think twice about fly-tipping.

    I don’t expect to see any sustainable change of council policy for at least two years: it will be how Labour runs the council in the final year of the present term that determines whether the people of Croydon give them another period in power. By then, Gavin Barwell MP could be political history and Britain might be being governed by a Miliband-led administration, which might be more or less popular than the present one, producing a swing to or away from Labour locally, whatever it has achieved, or not, while in power.

  2. Sadly some Labour councillors and MPs have only recently started using Twitter and are behaving like kids (“I will tell the teacher” kind of attitude). They don’t like being criticised.

    I was told that I am being childish for my tweet “Don’t mess with Croydon but they (Travellers) have” and another one “Perhaps don’t mess with travellers”

    So please don’t criticise the Labour councillors on Twitter. They don’t like it.

    Let them grow up and then complain about rubbish to rubbish councillors (in charge of rubbish)

  3. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    They messed with Croydon……………….

  4. Thank you for your interest this is now clear. A massive tip, and was being dealt with from day 1 of things appearing on this site by officers and cllrs. Prevention methods for Ashburton Playing Fields and prosecution for those involved being pursued with vigor.

  5. davidcallam says:

    Thank you Stephen for your contribution.

    Without wishing to sound churlish, assurance of persuance with vigour is less important to me than the names of those who have been charged, the date of their trial and a commitment from the council to press for eye-watering fines as well as the full cost of clearing up the mess.

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