Why it is important to Love Your Street

Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks at Birmingham City Council, writes about a Love Your Street Day staged in Alum Rock last Wednesday (August 28)…

When I took up this role in May this year, I was clear that we had lots to do if we were to get the city’s waste management service to the point at which it was consistently delivering on the top priority for the people of Birmingham – clean streets.

Four months on, we are making progress. Make no mistake, we still have lots to do, but our efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our crews and depot staff, missed collections are falling.

We will be investing £12 million into new vehicles to increase the reliability of collections and we’ve commissioned an independent review to advise on the best way to take the service forward.

However, this is set against a perception that things aren’t improving or that the council does not act upon the concerns of citizens, businesses and visitors.

In the year-to-date (April 2019 to July 2019) Birmingham’s bin collection rate is 99.58 per cent (against a year-to-date target of 99.90 per cent). That means that we have successfully completed 11,526,746 collections out of the scheduled 11,575,194 so far this year.

I know that any missed bin or related issue is not good enough for the individual concerned, but those figures hopefully give some idea of the size, scale and reliability of our service. That’s no mean feat when you consider we are very much on a journey of improvement.

This Love Your Street Day, based on a similar one staged back in the autumn of 2016 on the Soho Road, is proof that we do listen and take action, based data, intelligence and concerns of the community. We’re starting with hot-spot areas that face deep-rooted issues and challenges around their street scene and local environment.

In total a team of 30 individuals from various council departments and partner organisers visited residents and businesses along the Alum Rock Road and adjacent streets. They tackled a range of issues including fly-tipping, traders encroaching onto the street, inconsiderate parking and fly-posting.

All of these affect how clean the streets in a neighbourhood are, so the team assembled for the day carried out a variety of activities to educate and engage with local residents and traders to improve the local environment.

This included searching fly-tipped waste for evidence of the culprits, removing dumped rubbish and carrying out spot checks on how businesses dispose of their waste.  Officers even spoke to residents who put out food for birds. We totally understand why people want to help wildlife but this is dumping food waste and attracts vermin – nobody wants to feed rats!

We’ve been issuing tickets to cars parked blocking the pavement or causing an obstruction to other vehicles. We get lots of complaints about this and it stops our waste and street cleansing team doing their job. Our team on the day also removed illegal fly posting and spoke to business owners about street trading and encroachment/obstruction of the highway.

In total, there were the following key headlines from the event:

  • At least 3.7 tonnes of litter and fly-tipping was cleared from the Alum Rock Road (exact figure will be greater once all depot data is collated);
  • 25 parking tickets issued;
  • Dozens of traders and dozens of local residents (including streets off Alum Rock Road) engaged with about local issues and legal requirements relating to business waste;
  • 12 businesses challenged about their goods encroaching onto the highway;
  • The recovery of CCTV evidence and material for police forensic examination from a van load sized fly-tip which occurred early this morning. Investigation ongoing;
  • 5 trade waste compliance inspections (4 compliant, 1 under investigation);
  • A trader whose premises back on to Reginald Road agreeing to speak to his trade waste provider to get a bin that he can fit with his business’ back yard rather than the large “container” bin he has on the street, attracting fly-tipping from others.

All in all, this event was a fantastic demonstration of the passion that the city council’s staff and partners have for clean streets.

We know from our similar activity on the Soho Road that a short, sharp programme of activity like this, tackling deep-rooted issues with a series of follow-up events, can act as a catalyst for everyone living and working in an area.

We will continue making every effort to improve and will monitor how things progress in Alum Rock following this clean-up day, with a view to staging similar events in other areas in the near future.

This blog was posted on 3 September 2019

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