CROYDON IN CRISIS: Parts of the town centre on private land are being turned into rat-infested rubbish dumps, and the council had done nothing about it until a couple of residents shamed the Town Hall leadership.
By STEVEN DOWNES
The appalling state of our streets has been a constant concern around all parts of the borough for years. And by all accounts, it is just getting worse.
It’s not just the stench of urine that dominates the underground walkways around the town centre. Or the human waste and other muck that can too often be observed in some car parks.
The lack of frequent street cleaning by the council’s rubbish contractors has become more marked since covid, despite Veolia receiving a £22million “uplift” in their contract around that time from the soon-to-be cash-strapped Croydon Council.
The fact that Veolia has since been given notice that their contract won’t be renewed when it ends in 2025 will hardly motivate their managers and directors to provide additional resources to do what they are already well paid to do: keep Croydon’s streets clean, our residents’ bins emptied regularly.
There’s not enough staff at Fisher’s Folly to answer all the calls from residents trying to lodge complaints or report fly-tips (“All reports of missed bin collections must be made online…”).
Mayor of Croydon, Jason “Listening to Croydon” Perry, isn’t really listening, however often he gets the publicly-funded council press office to pump out his political propaganda.
Since being elected as the £82,000 per year Mayor in May 2022, he has done nothing to improve the council’s contact centre, lengthening its opening hours or providing an improved service at weekends or bank holidays. Staff in part-time Perry’s office answer the phones for just 20 hours of each regular, 40-hour week. This Bank Holiday week, you’ll be lucky if Perry’s office phones are staffed for even 16 hours.
The council’s CrapApp, which has been kicking around for more than a decade, still does not have any categories for residents to report missed bin collections or missed food waste collections.
Try to report such a service failure using another, opensource smartphone app that is effectively used by hundreds of other local authorities and all you will (eventually) get is an acknowledgement that your report has been received, but a Job’s Worth response saying that the council staff will ignore the complaint because you, the resident, the Council Tax-payer, did not follow their procedure…
Even if you send emails to the Mayor or your MP, chances are that they will be ignored.
Two episodes this week, however, demonstrated another approach which might, just might, deliver more effective results from our elected representatives and the council’s paid staff.
Tweet shaming makes puce-faced Perry even more red-faced, enough to sit up and take notice. And maybe even to listen to the residents who pay his handsome salary.
On Wednesday morning, someone called Miles, tweeting as @CR0ydonCrypto, posted a video nasty on the social media platform, tagging the Mayor (and Inside Croydon, as it happens) and hashtagged “#rats”. We understood this to be a description of the rodent infestation featured in his video, rather than a description of us…
The images were not pretty: piles of black bin bags, apparently dumped just off the town centre, a short walk away from Surrey Street’s food market. It looks like industrial-scale dumping, perhaps by a business that can’t, or won’t, pay to have its waste dealt with properly and responsibly.
“Can somebody sort out this ongoing fly tipping and public health hazard being committed by 12-20 Crown Hill (previously Phase nightclub) in Priddys Yard,” public-spirited Miles tweeted.
“It’s not a landfill site!” Though that’s exactly what it looked like.
Miles’s polite tweet quickly demonstrated three things:
- No one from the council or its contractors is patrolling and monitoring the state of our streets on a regular or effective basis;
- Our politicians don’t really know the area they are meant to represent, and fail to visit all parts of their constituencies or wards often enough, apart from taking self-congratulatory selfies while delivering their party political leaflets; and
- Our elected representatives don’t always read their emails
Less than an hour after Miles’s video was posted on Twitter, he did get a response, from his MP, Sarah Jones.
“That’s horrific,” Jones replied. “Could you email that to email@example.com.”
“Already have Sarah,” Miles replied. “It’s been an issue for months.”
And apparently, the MP was entirely unaware of it.
It took the Mayor somewhat longer to hit his social media send button.
“Thank you for flagging this. We have raised this with relevant officers,” Perry wrote, pompously. “Please could you provide an email address for us to provide further updates.”
But Miles had an answer for this self-serving mayoral tweet, too. “Hi Jason,” he replied.
“You have many emails from me on this topic already. Please check your records.”
Later that day (presumably after Perry had got round to reading his records and getting a briefing from what councillors insist on calling “officers”, when they actually mean council employees), the Mayor had discovered that Priddys Yard is, in fact, private land. But while that puts it off-limit for Veolia road sweepers, it doesn’t negate the landowner’s responsibilities, nor the council staff’s job to enforce them.
Perry tweeted that afternoon: “Update: Thank you again for raising this. This is currently being looked into by our environmental enforcement team. Whilst this is on private land, our team are in the process of issuing a community protection notice, giving them direction to clear it.”
But if, as Miles has made clear, this has been an issue for many months, why is the environmental enforcement team only acting now, after the Mayor was embarrassed on Twitter?
This was not the only instance of tweet shaming this week.
After Miles did his good citizen bit, another resident, Michael Davies, uploaded a video of the cans, bottles and other assorted detritus that litters Waterworks Yard, another bit of private property just a short walk from the Priddys Yard dumping site.
Residents can pay £1,200 per month for their one-bedroom flats overlooking Waterworks Yard. The old waterworks building looks a sorry, shabby mess. A protected, listed building, part of Croydon’s rapidly dwindling Victorian heritage, no one seems to want to spend money to bring it back into any sort of use.
There is public access allowed (tolerated?) through the courtyard, much of which has been fenced off since building works commenced a couple of years ago.
The littering problem appears to have got much worse in recent months, with the landowners apparently unwilling to pay for their property to be cleaned. Green Party ward councillor Ria Patel is investigating the situation, though it again raises the question of quite what the council’s environmental enforcement team has been doing all this time.
The rodent infestation, the illegal dumping of rubbish, late-night raves, drug-dealing and threats of violence are among the mounting frustrations of traders on Surrey Street whose pleas, ignored by the Mayor, the police and the Croydon Business Improvement District, have forced them into forming their own association to act as a lobby group.
But as one market trader on Surrey Street confided this morning, “Things get worse every week. Some stall-holders are giving up.
“They’ve had enough. We pay more in Council Tax and for our pitches, and we get less.
“The Mayor’s not listening. The police are not listening. It can’t go on like this.”
Perhaps they could learn from Miles and Michael, and indulge in a spot of Twitter shaming… nothing else seems to work.
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