Now might be the time for Stuart Collins to start dishing out the T-shirts.
Three years ago, the Labour councillor put in charge of getting Croydon’s streets clean launched a “Don’t Mess With Croydon – Take Pride” campaign, handing out badges and balloons before he had the bins and road-sweeping staff in place to back-up the sloganising.
But today, following a £1.3million investment in the road-cleaning programme with contractors Veolia, Croydon Council produced figures which showed a decrease in fly-tipping incidents across the borough of more than one-fifth, compared to the same six-month period in 2016.
From April to October this year there were 11,876 reported incidents of fly-tipping, down from 15,211 during the same period in 2016.
Early campaigning by the local Tories have suggested that next May’s Town Hall vote was going to be another rubbish election, with social media accounts piled high with pictures of wannabe politicians pointing at random pieces of dumped crap. Today’s official figures should be a stop to that.
Collins recently appeared, briefly, on a national BBC News report about the national spate of fly-tipping, which is costing councils across the country £58million a year. This is not a problem peculiar to Croydon, and nor has Croydon Council ever been shown to have been responsible for dumping a single fly-tip.
It is the public who have been littering our streets, parks and open spaces, often through sheer laziness (not bothering to use the bins provided for their food wrappers or coffee beakers), or through opting for a “cheap” option to dispose of bulky items by using unlicensed contractors, who pocket some easy cash and then empty their van at a roadside somewhere. This is not just “anti-social”: it is criminal behaviour.
It looks to be an intractable problem, or at least that’s what Croydon Tories would have the public believe. In the last four years of the Conservative administration at Croydon Town Hall under Mike “WadGate” Fisher, the council did not bring a single prosecution for fly-tipping.
But since the Collins-led Don’t Mess With Croydon – Take Pride campaign began in 2014 to combine enforcement with encouraging local people to get involved in clear-ups, the council has prosecuted 171 offenders in court, including two fly-tippers sent to prison, and seized 32 vehicles used to store or dump waste illegally, many of which have been crushed.
The effects can be seen in today’s council’s figures, with fly-tipping in the borough decreasing, against the background of the national trend which is still rising. Inside Croydon has requested equivalent figures for every month, going back to April 2014, to offer more than this council-selected snap-shot. This is being treated as a Freedom of Information request and could take at least four weeks before the council officials respond.
According to the figures which the council does want publicised, almost every ward saw a drop in the number of recorded fly-tips comparing these six-month periods, with the biggest percentage drops in South Norwood (39 per cent), Shirley (39 per cent) and Ashburton (38 per cent). The largest drop by number of fly-tips was in Selhurst (down by 520 fly-tips, or 35 per cent).
The picture is not uniformly great across the borough. Three wards saw a rise in the percentage of fly-tips – Tory councillor Mario Creatura’s Coulsdon West ward had 13 extra fly-tips, while Selsdon and Ballards – the ward represented by the Tories’ chief rubbish councillor, Phil Thomas – was up 18 per cent to 90 fly-tips, and there was a 5 per cent rise in Thornton Heath to 1,492.
The council maintains that it is clearing 80 per cent of reported fly-tips within 48 hours.
The figures include all reported incidents that were cleared by not just council waste contractor Veolia, but also other council departments including housing and parks.
One measure which the council claims has been particularly successful has been a restriction on 3,400 businesses’ waste collection times. This shop front fly-tipping clampdown, known as time-banded waste collection, expanded on Monday to cover another 500 addresses from South End to Selsdon Road in South Croydon.
And Collins, for his part, is determined to make even more improvements.
“These latest figures are encouraging, but the council’s work goes on to tackle fly-tipping, make our streets even cleaner and improve the local environment for our residents,” Collins said today.
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