Our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE, on the latest crass error of judgement from the propaganda bunker at Fisher’s FollyAs if to underline the assessment that Croydon’s council is dysfunctional, the first press release issued from the propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly yesterday, after the announcement from Mayor Jason Perry that he is hiking the borough’s Council Tax by 15per cent, was a cheery little story of how one of the services the public is already paying for is actually being performed to some degree by volunteers.
Or maybe this is Tory Mayor Perry’s council cynically rubbing people’s noses in it that they are all paying more and getting less. Much, much less.
The time has long passed when describing Veolia as a rubbish contractor was a bit of a giggle. It’s plain that the state of the borough’s pavements, streets and open spaces have been neglected for far too long – a period that can be traced back to when Perry was a mere member of the cabinet for planning and regeneration in the previous Conservative administration.
On Perry and the Tories’ previous watch, they negotiated a contract which allowed Veolia to monitor their own performance – all the missed bin collections, unswept, rubbish-strewn streets and fly-tips ignored. Under Perry and the Tories, Croydon was allowed to become the fly-tip hot spot of south London.
There was a smidgen of improvement noticeable soon after Labour took over in 2014, but it did not last very long, and with covid came a rapid decline in service levels, an inexplicable £21million “uplift” in Croydon’s payments to Veolia, and then the belated decision not to renew the contract when it expires in 2025.
At no point over the past decade or so have the council officials responsible – under director Steve Iles – ever really got to grips with managing Veolia so that the company actually delivers something close to what the borough’s residents require or expect.
Now, cash-strapped Croydon Council is in no real position of strength to negotiate a new deal or consider bringing the service in-house, and this borough may be tied in to doing a deal across Kingston, Sutton and Merton through its membership of the local quango, the SLWP – the South London Waste Partnership. The SLWP is an unaccountable organisation whose primary concern appears to ensure its residents deliver enough “fuel” for the furnaces of the polluting waste incinerator at Beddington.
And so, through Croydon’s cheery “good news” press release issued yesterday afternoon, we learn that more than 3,600 volunteers were “mobilised to help clear litter, leaves and large rubbish from Croydon’s streets, pavements and parks” last year.
In other words, doing the job that Veolia is handsomely paid to do.
Continuing to adopt less-than-appropriate military language, the council says that its “army of dedicated street champions … grew to an impressive total of 720” by the end of 2022.
Though they fail to state who is impressed by such a factoid. Nor why we should be impressed by it.
“These volunteers were joined by individuals and groups from all walks of life, coming together to participate in neighbourhood street tidies, park picks, and national events such as the Great British Spring Clean.” This, the council tells us, using an entirely redundant exclamation mark, came to “a total of 753 litter picks!”
The volunteers, the council tells us, cleared 8,627 bags of rubbish. Which demonstrates what a mucky bunch many of our residents are, and what a poor job contractors Veolia must be doing.
The council’s press release, written by someone who has failed to realise that such activities signal the failure of their organisation to actually provide the services that they are paid to deliver, then drifts off with an air of melancholy.
Apparently, going around and clearing up other people’s crap that they carelessly and negligently leave behind, “can be a great way to meet new friends”. Oh dear, dear, dear…
Bob A Job Week is no more than a distant memory for some of a certain age, and is a practice which the Scout Association rightly abandoned in the interests of the well-being of its members. But it is true that some clear-up activities can help to teach important lessons of community cohesion to the yoof.
“We involve the Cubs and Scouts in these local clean-ups as we help them to be part of their community and take responsibility for it,” Paul Burns, a Scout Leader at the 2nd Selsdon and Addington group was quoted as saying by the borough’s very well-paid press officer.
“The children enjoy filling the collection bags, as we have a challenge who can fill theirs up first.” It’s certainly a new take on the egg-and-spoon race.
According to the council, “The clean-ups support the day-to-day work of council teams to keep the borough clean and safe.” They reckon that Veolia is responding to 2,000 fly-tips every month. They are no longer offering any statistics on the number of fly-tippers being successfully prosecuted.
The council claims that it “carries out regular litter audits to deal with known hotspots and has put in extra bins and larger-capacity bins if needed”. This is the same council which removed more than 1,000 bins from Croydon’s streets, so that Veolia had fewer collections to make, and could save a few bob on staff costs.
It being an official council press release, there was the obligatory vacuous quote from Perry, Croydon’s Misinformed Mayor. As well as wanting to hike Council Tax by 15per cent, it appears that Perry wants residents to do the work of the council’s contractors, too.
“I hope even more residents will sign up this year, as getting involved is a really rewarding way to give back to our community,” Perry said.
“As the street champions programme continues to grow, we will continue to support it.” Which is nice… though it might be a whole lot nicer if Perry and senior council officials actually got the contractors to do the job that they are paid to do.
- We should not be asked to pay more to get less. Sign the iC petition opposing Mayor Perry’s 15per cent Council Tax hike – click here
Read more: Perry to preside over record-breaking 15% Council Tax hike
Read more: The Perry Premium: Mayor fails to disclose he asked for 15%
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I don’t mind clearing up rubbish dumped in places that are not subject to normal cleansing regimes (or should be) by Veolia, nor picking up the odd bit of rubbish dropped by Veolia staff, as normally, they take care to avoid doing so.
I occasionally pick up stuff left by late night take-away eaters, in cars, who park in aquite local street, eat and drink, and then snidely open the car doors and drop their cans etc into the gutter, then drive off. (yes, I have seen them do it). But I would much rather they took their own rubbish home to put in their bin. Not alot of effort, surely?
I admire and when ever possible, thank the stalwart local heroes (mainly female heroes, or heroines, as women seem outnumber volunteer males by 9 to 1), who I see walking around local streets with hi viz and a litter stick, picking up cans and other trash thrown on to the streets by wilfully anti-social car drivers and passengers.
In a nearby street, the grass verges are still covered by fallen leaves of the street trees, leaves that once upon a time were raked up by the council in November. Just a very few local residents still mow the grass verges outside ther own houses, something I used to do when I lived in a road with grass verges.
Something in me nowadays, prevents me organising the local residents to do a community leaf rake and grass cut love-in. yet, it is necessary.
I have reached the stage when I still think that the council should clean the streets of leaves, and litter, but I am no longer surprised about the council not doing basic cleaning that , 20-40 years ago, we all took for granted, and got angry about, and complained about, to councillor and council departments, when it did not do these things or even f it was slow in doing them!
It’s a sad thing that for 3 years running I have not bothered to phone the council to ask them, so difficult it is to phone.
Secretly, I just feel sorry and depressed that local government has got to this low ebb.
I wonder if some tasks, like street cleansing and litter bins, should be brought back in house,and be better, and save money.
Thankfully, I do still get angry, when I read in Inside Croydon that Croydon Council get much less from central Government than it did decades ago.
Anger can be good. In moderation of course. And if targetted properly.
OK, one last effort– report the grass verges and request that the leaves are cleaned, and the leaf and twig debris (by now, a sort of pulpy mulch) in all the gutters gets cleaned off.
Oh dear, the time is 4:28pm. Council switchboards used to close at 5:30pm. Today, much earlier.
I will try, but I expect to get a nice message about “Sorry, the council switchboard is shut now. Please call again between…….. Beep.
So low is my expectation.
I’m sure I have said this before but I will reiterate . The sad state of our rubbish strewn streets and parks is not down to Veolia or the Council. After all they did not in person buy take aways and eat them in their lorries or their offices. We did, ‘The Public’. It is surely time to take responsibility for our behaviour and stop expecting others to clean up after ourselves. Perhaps the very fact that we expect our dumped rubbish to be disposed of, encourages us or allows us to drop our refuse without a further thought. “It is someone elses problem/job/responsibility”. I wish we had a public campaign to teach everyone to keep our environment clean from school age onwards.
I totally agree with Lewis. Having done civic work as a volunteer for 3 decades in a range of roles and to take care of issues in the area I live to improve our environment for all who live there.
Regretfully since the riots I have watched money go to places untouched and not in dire need and streets left with no improvements in half a century decend into slums.
More to the point after contacting Councillors and MPs about in your face issues tere has been no change and little interest – if anything avoidance and silence has been the order of the day.
Contacting the Council has been worse. At Manager level there are some that still try to do a good job with little resource, but many above do not and some of the emaIl replies begger belief – not just as the grammer was so bad but the intent came acroos as uncaring and were openly sarcastic and frankly malicious. Others you would not believe came from an MP or Governmet office.
However when miscreants state openly saying the information they got was from planning enforcement that you had grassed them up then one expects some kind of response as to how that can happen. This Council – silence not even an investigation – not a peep.
That kind of sums up where co-operation with that body has to end.
Exclamation marks, or ‘dog’s cocks’ in printer’s parlance, are a sure sign of an amateur press officer. Btw, I remember bob a job week.