At last week’s meeting of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, opposition councillors once again called for improvements to basic services such as bin collections and weed removal.
Labour voted in favour of a further report coming before the environment, transport and sustainability committee, to outline how the council intends to improve basic services for residents. This follows Labour’s offer of working cross-party on solutions to the issues the council has had in delivering these basic services back in February.
Labour also voted for officers to report back to the committee on eco-friendly alternative methods to tackle problem weeds on our city pavements. Labour secured funding months ago to tackle weeds and to explore alternatives to glyphosates, so have asked for officers to explain what’s happened to those funds in this further report.
Labour’s co-spokesperson on the committee, Cllr Gary Wilkinson said:
“In my Central Hove ward I continue to receive an extremely high volume of complaints from residents rightly angry about basic council services failing to deliver. I suspect many other councillors do too.
“There are obvious shortcomings in refuse and recycling collection across the city as well as problems with other basic services.
“Our city’s residents have had to endure overflowing bins with recycling and refuse bins not being emptied for weeks on ends. These are serious issues that residents expect and deserve solutions to. They are not new concerns.
“Labour highlighted these concerns and long-standing issues with the delivery of basic services back in February of this year, when we brought a motion to the council in February of this year seeking the establishment of a cross-party working group to investigate, review and discuss solutions to the systemic failures behind the delivery of basic council services including recycling and refuse collection.
“We invited the other groups to work constructively with us on finding solutions.
“Whilst recognising the challenges the pandemic presented, I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank and acknowledge, all the hard work our council staff have undertaken during this time.
“These issues are no reflection on our refuse and recycling staff, who like all key-workers have prevailed under difficult working circumstances, as well as the pressures that have been placed upon them due to over £100 million in cuts to council finances by the Conservative Government over the last decade.
“I repeat, this is not about our individual council staff. It is about systemic issues in delivering services. Systems that have been failing our residents.
“We need to get back to basics. To live in an environment that is clean and well maintained is a basic right of every resident in our city and for too many it is simply not being met.
“Whilst, appreciating that the council back in February agreed to a report coming to every meeting of the P&R sub-committee outlining the council’s steps to recovery in waste and refuse collection, it did not go as far as Labour wished in being able to investigate, review and discuss solutions to systemic failures and provide recommendations to this committee on how to improve services.
“I believe that urgent action is needed to tackle these current and long standing issues and the proposed stand-alone report coming to this committee, seeking improvements, will help with this.
“We need to be thinking about the future. To the city we want our children to grow up in and enjoy. A city we can be proud of, where our neighbourhoods are clean and trust with our residents is preserved because they see how we sort our problems, not avoid them.”
Labour’s co-spokesperson on the committee, Cllr Nancy Platts said:
“What this is telling us is the service is so fragile that if we lose a member of staff, it seems to throw out the whole round.
“So, the whole of Whitehawk just gets missed and then they have to wait a month to have their recycling collected.
“It’s got to the point that residents are saying to me ‘shall we just give up and put our recycling in the bin’ which will drive down recycling rates.”
As reported by local democracy reporter Sarah Booker-Lewis in The Argus; Cllr Platts asked officials to tell councillors what was needed to resolve the problems whether it was more staff or a bigger budget.
When councillors debated resolving the strikes in October last year, Cllr Platts spoke with workers on the picket line at Cityclean, the council’s rubbish and recycling service. She said that they felt that they were “treated like something on the bottom of a manager’s shoe”.
Cllr Platts listed issues ranging from second-hand trucks frequently breaking down, teams sent out in the wrong vehicles and new drivers not given details about rounds with “mazes of alleyways”.
The committee voted by five to four for a detailed report, with Labour and the Conservatives voting in favour and the Greens against.
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