Call For Reversal Of Merton Street Cleaning Cutbacks

Move comes as local littering fines are increased

Merton's Conservative Councillors are calling for a reversal of reductions in the borough's street cleaning service.

Six Tory Councillors are putting forward a motion to the next full council meeting asking for the re-introduction of a full Sunday street cleaning service in Merton's town centres.

Their motion, set for debate on April 15, says: "This Council recognises that cleanliness of the borough's streets is clearly the top concern for people across Merton, according to the latest Annual Residents' Survey.

"Over a third of residents now cite litter and dirt in the streets as their primary concern, which is a 10% increase over the last two years and the highest level for a decade."

It points out that the number of street cleaners employed in Merton has been reduced from 112 to 2010 to 103 today. A further seven posts are due to be cut in 2016-17 as part of the 2015-19 Business Plan.

It states that according to a recent Freedom of Information request, 21,700 people contacted the Council about street scene and waste issues last year. Dog waste bins are also set to be removed across the borough in 2016-17.

Their motion resolves to call on Cabinet to:

  • Reverse its previous decision and reintroduce street sweeping immediately after refuse collections;
  • Reverse its previous decision and reintroduce a full Sunday street cleaning service in Merton’s town centres;
  • Seek to identify replacement efficiency savings over the coming months that would protect Merton’s street cleaning service from the further cuts planned for 2016-17 e.g. by encouraging greater use of the ‘Love Clean Streets’ smartphone App;
  • Conduct a full review of the training and monitoring systems in place for frontline street cleaning staff to ensure that the Council’s stated policies and agreed service levels are delivered on the ground; and
  • Agree to join a borough-wide, cross party anti-litter campaign as proposed by the Merton Matters campaign group.

Their motion comes as Labour-led Merton Council announces that it is upping its fines to litter louts to £80 from this month.

It increased on-the-spot fixed penalty notices (FPNs) from £75 to £80 April 1. The added money will go straight into the council’s environmental enforcement and street cleaning services.

The council says it spends over £5million keeping Merton’s streets clean every year, educating people about the effects of environmental crime and being tougher on people who drop litter.

Earlier this year, it launched the Love Your Street anti-litter campaign which boosts the work it does with residents, businesses, community groups and schools to keep Merton clean. This also follows the council’s partnership with environmental enforcement specialists, the introduction of Glutton street cleaning machines for town centres, the installation of special gum and cigarette butt bins across the borough and new high tech smart bins in parks.

Merton Council's director for environment and regeneration Chris Lee said: "Merton is a great place to live and we know that many residents work hard to keep the borough clean so we’re committed to taking tough action on the small minority of people who litter. As well as our Love Your Street campaign, community clean-ups with residents and environmental education sessions, this bigger fine should deter people from dropping litter on Merton’s streets, helping us to keep the borough clean and tidy."

  • Residents in the Lavender Fields area of Mitcham are now taking part in a wheelie bin pilot project. The pilot will last six months and include around 1,050 households.

The aim is to assess whether wheelie bins can help in improving the cleanliness of the borough's streets and provide value for money.

The council said funding for the pilot has come largely from the Department for Communities and Local Government (£67,000), which will allow for two additional vehicles and crews. The outlay for the council is £48,000 to go on the bins, which it sais has come from a small underspend.

After the six month trial, the council's scrutiny committee will carry out an assessment into whether wheelie bin collections are value for money for and whether they result in the improvements to street cleanliness and recycling rates.

April 8, 2015