Croydon’s Labour council wants to use Big Brother to help to stop groups of travellers from dumping piles of rubbish on the borough’s green spaces.
Stuart Collins, the cabinet member for slogans and T-shirts, is understood to be considering calling in mobile CCTV units to monitor traveller encampments – a scheme which the disgraced former Croydon Tory leader Mike Fisher ordered to be implemented six months ago.
Travellers have been accused of leaving a “Grand Canyon of rubbish” on playing fields in Ashburton and Purley Way last month, but as Collins and other council officials have been forced to admit, proving who was responsible for the costly mess is often difficult to the point of being impossible.
“The problem has always been proving, to the level needed in court, that travellers were responsible,” Collins said.
Such prejudicial comments could undermine any enforcement action in these cases, if any is ever brought. “This particular community think they can get away with it,” Collins said. “They’re quite well up on the law and they’re not stupid. They don’t leave things around that can be traced back to them.”
Some groups of travellers have been known to tour neighbourhoods offering cash-in-hand rubbish removal “services”. But instead of taking any bulky items to licensed dumps – where the travellers would incur a charge – they leave the refuse behind on their camp site, where once they move on, it can become someone else’s problem, to be cleared at other people’s expense.
The major fly-tips at Ashburton and Purley Way were an immense embarrassment for Labour’s new council, making a mucky mockery of its “Don’t Mess With Croydon” campaign, which was launched before Collins had been able to ensure that the responsible departments are fully staffed. Nine new council employees have been recruited, and all should be in place by the end of October.
Among the plans for deterring traveller camps from misconduct is to keep them under 24/7 closed-circuit television surveillance, a scheme which was first put to council officials in March by the then leader of the council, Mike Fisher.
According to Coulsdon West Conservative councillor Mario Creatura, Fisher “directed the council to get a security firm…”, ahhh, outsourcing, the favourite fall-back of the Tories when they have stripped the council offices of too many staff… “to be present at traveller sites monitoring their activities 24 hours a day. Whilst this would not be cheap it would be no more expensive than removing these mountains of rubbish.
“In addition, it would have one of two effects,” Creatura said. “Either it would prevent the dumping of rubbish (which would deny the travellers an income stream) or alternatively, if rubbish was dumped, we should have enough evidence to prosecute or take other action.”
Creatura called the measure a “seemingly sensible policy suggestion”, but could not elaborate why something put forward by the borough’s most senior elected official had failed to be implemented by council officers.
There are privacy issues with CCTV monitoring operations, but senior council figures have been briefed that in future, when a traveller group rolls up on a piece of public land in Croydon, when police and council officials first visit them – usually to serve them with notice to quit – they will also issue a letter that will state that they may be subject to surveillance.
“The letters won’t say ‘Smile, you’re on Candid Camera,’ but they should be enough that the council is covered legally, and the letters alone may be enough to make any fly-tippers think twice before messing with Croydon,” our suitably on-message source in Fisher’s Folly told Inside Croydon.
“Fly-tipping is a crime and serious anti-social behaviour. If anyone does try to dump stuff, then in future we will have the video evidence to successfully prosecute and bring in significant fines.”
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Coming to Croydon
- Soul Symphony Community Choir sessions, Sep 16-Dec 23
- Police question time, LNK at Centrale, Sep 17
- David Lean Cinema: Chef, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: Remembering the Great War, Sep 18
- The Complete History of the BBC – Abridged, Spread Eagle, Sep 19-20
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014) If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org