This is a scene in Thornton Heath at lunchtime today. In total, there was another dozen large bags of rubbish swept, picked up and collected by a hardy handful of local residents from the Thornton Heath Community Action Team.
The morning’s efforts by these residents to keep the neighbourhood streets clean are, of course, to be applauded. It is an exercise which is replicated and repeated up and down the borough throughout the year, in wards in the south as well as the north of Croydon, by groups sometimes organised by Labour councillors, sometimes by Conservative councillors.
The question that these clean-ups by such community-minded groups raises is: why is it necessary at all?
The council has a contract for street cleaning with Veolia, after all. So Council Tax-payers – including the community work group in action this morning – are paying for a service through the council and then having to go out and clean up after the service-providers have failed to deliver to an acceptable standard.
According to Veolia’s own website, they were awarded a 15-year contract in 2003. They are clearly a shining example of the shortcomings and risks inherent in local authorities locking themselves in to such long-term deals.
“We are responsible for the cleaning of over 2,678 streets in Croydon,” Veolia state on their website. “The busiest roads in the borough are cleaned on a daily basis; others are swept at least once a week. The remaining roads are cleaned every four weeks.” But to what standard?
The service provided by Veolia has, like so many other council services, been subject to cut backs and reductions across the borough, with fewer visits from roadsweepers to our streets.And there are, as the picture above demonstrates, bins at the roadside for litter. So there is no excuse for the sort of lazy, casual littering by passers-by which often carpets our streets.
Yet take a look at the second picture, right, taken by the Thornton Heath work party this morning, before they started their session.
That’s not the accumulation of rubbish over just a few days. That will have taken several weeks to build up. The centre of Thornton Heath is, you’d like to think, one of the busiest roads in Croydon which Veolia claims gets cleaned daily.
So has this festering just been ignored by the Veolia roadsweepers? On a daily basis? Until there was enough rubbish to fill 12 bags of other people’s crap?
Under the previous Town Hall administration, Veolia was allowed to self-supervise their work, whether it was bin collections or road cleaning. They checked off their own work.
Who oversaw the roadsweeping of Thornton Heath that allowed this debris and detritus to accumulate?
In all the sloganising and T-shirts issued by the Labour group which now controls the council about making Croydon a clean and green borough, has someone forgotten to check that we’re actually getting what we pay for?
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