Friday, June 20, 2008

Ward-based cleaning

We had some good news last night.

We circulated a freepost survey to about 8,000 homes over the spring as part of an exercise to find out resident priorities. It's an exercise we've done by different means most years - but this was one of the most wide-ranging surveys we've done.

In the past these surveys have shown anti-social behaviour to be the major public concern. With neighbourhood policing teams, improved youth facilities and police community support officers - along with a focus on solving problems - you would hope this had improved. And it has a little.

So this year street cleanliness has emerged as the major issue. ASB is still a concern and we're going to do some more analysis of what people are telling us about this.

Now last night we heard that preparations to introduce "ward-based cleaning" in Perry Barr ward are nearing completion. This is an idea that has been tested in one or two areas in the city with success.

The council's own figures showed why our residents are reporting a problem. Dirt levels on the street in our ward are about half as high as in neighbouring Oscott where ward-based cleaning was piloted.

The reasons: well we get repeated complaints about refuse ending up on the street. One or two neighbourhoods were also especially littered - notably the Serpentine site used as a car park by Villa. We've been deploying the monthly Xtra clean up teams effectively and they've been picking up about three times as much litter as in other wards.

We have fought fly-tipping vigorously, fencing off affected areas. But sometimes these areas continue to be blighted by one or two anti-social residents - and this is a hard problem to tackle on what is defined as private land.

What the new teams will do: all street cleaners and refuse collectors will have a single Perry Barr ward manager, supported by a team leader in charge of street cleaners.

They will clean on the streets and off them. There should be a notable impact on neighbourhoods such as Trehurst Avenue where different bits belong to highways, housing and local services. They will seek to follow the refuse crews round, cleaning up after them.

That's what we know so far. We are waiting to find out more and work with the new manager. There are for instance a number of public alleyways that are a constant battle to keep clean - that should change. Examples are the path from Rowdale Road to Perry Park Crescent and the path from Northolt Grove to Scott Arms.

We also intend to keep the enviromnental warden based in the ward. We were out with him the other weekend assisting with a neighbourhood clean-up in Witton organised by the churches' group Hope 08. There's a discussion about how the post is funded but we are keeping the money aside from community chest until it's resolved.

Hopefully the warden will be able to spend more time on jobs such as education in schools and making sure dog fouling does not happen.

Here's hoping our next round of surveys shows people really feeling the difference!

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