This report considers how to engage the community to help the Council maintain high quality street scene and waste services during forthcoming years of financial constraint.
The Committee received a report from the Director for Cleaner, Greener & Cultural Services outlining the challenges to the Council caused by rubbish dumping and maintaining the street scene. Officers explained that the Council had focussed on the issue of flytipping for several months but despite the increased resources allocated, it remained a concern. The Council was therefore seeking to use a wider dialogue with the community to tackle it together and to develop ways of working with residents more positively. Enforcement through prosecutions had proven to be time-consuming and resource-intensive as clear evidence was needed to link dumped rubbish with the offender, which was often very difficult. As such, residents were invited to suggest ways in which the Council could work with them to improve the Borough’s streets.
A member of the public present explained that he appreciated the time and effort put into the issue by the Council and had attended multiple site visits with officers. However the problems persisted with only a slight improvement: more bins had been installed, but they were still overflowing with people dumping their rubbish on the incorrect day. He also acknowledged the work by Serco to clear flytipping within 24 hours or being reported, but it was still occurring. He argued that the root of the problem was that in much of the Borough’s terraced housing there was insufficient space to store rubbish, which prompted people to dump their rubbish on the pavement and make the area look like a tip. He was particularly concerned in light of the anticipated further budget cuts to the service. He argued that more needed to be done to improve the infrastructure of properties to remove the incentive to dump on the streets. This was especially true of larger houses that had been adapted into Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs), which increased the number of households and therefore rubbish produced. He suggested that as the worst offenders, there should be an additional levy applied to HMOs to fund the additional costs of maintaining tidy streets.
Another member of the public expanded on the issues caused by HMOs and how the basements of such buildings were traditionally used for waste storage but this was no longer practical so rubbish was often left on steps and the pavement. New tenants moving into such properties were not instructed by their landlords of the required rubbish disposal procedures and so rubbish was left out incorrectly in leaking supermarket carrier bags that there often then attacked by foxes, creating more mess. Black rubbish sacks and recycling bags should be issued to new tenants at the landlords’ expense and property managers should be required to instruct new residents. He also described how at properties without sufficient storage space, additional rubbish collections had been arranged. It was suggested that these could be increased, with the costs passed onto the landlords.
Officers reported that they acknowledged the need for greater interaction with landlords. Work on this had begun, but it was agreed that this needed to be taken further. Officers also undertook to explore the feasibility of additional collections and how they might be funded.
Members of the public also highlighted that many of the Borough’s residents did not speak English as their first language, and so it was suggested that all literature and signage needed to be very visual with clear pictures. It was also suggested that signs could be developed and put on the backs of doors of HMOs, so that even if the tenants changed, the signs would remain. Community skips that were in changing locations across the Borough were also suggested to enable people to dispose of rubbish and bulky items easily.
It was agreed that signage with clear visual messaging should be developed and officers agreed to look into them. In terms of passing on costs to landlords, officers reported that the legal responsibility for waste disposal rested with individual residents and businesses, so getting landlords’ agreement could be difficult. Officers also described experiences of community skips in other areas, where they attracted large numbers of people from a wide area and some dumping of commercial waste, without having a significant impact on the wider street scene.
The meeting discussed the role of planning in new builds and conversions and the range of requirements that needed to be met before planning permission was granted. Officers welcomed the suggestion and agreed to explore ways in which they could better work with colleagues in planning and whether there was any scope to extend requirements to more historical buildings. They also explained that there existed regulations regarding waste storage for high rise buildings and that there was a London-wide project to expand them to smaller developments.
Members of the public also highlighted that many houses in the Borough were Council-owned and managed through social landlords. As such, the Council should be able to exert greater pressure to ensure residents complied with waste procedures correctly. The Cabinet Member also highlighted that some boroughs required compulsory registration for private landlords and that this could be explored in Hammersmith & Fulham to see if they could be made responsible for education of tenants or be subject to a levy for the cost of additional services. He also suggested that as a lot of on-street dumping seemed to come from house clearances, it would be productive to work more closely with local estate agents to prevent waste being left out on the wrong days.
Members expressed the view that storing and disposing of waste needed to be made as simple as possible as people tended to do whatever was easiest. It would therefore be important to ensure information relating to collection days was easily available and understood. It was suggested that such information should be included in Council Tax bills throughout the year.
A range of leaflets and stickers to be distributed by residents or affixed to instances of flytipping was also suggested. It was argued that if residents saw other residents highlighting the negative impacts of illegal dumping, then the message would be more powerful than if it only came from the Council. It was also highlighted that the term ‘flytipping’ itself was not always understood and shouldn’t be used in communication with residents.
A member of the public argued that the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ national campaign many years ago had been a powerful mechanism to limit littering and make people aware of their responsibilities. The campaign now needed to be refreshed to remind people, with particular attention paid to educating children. It was suggested that the Council should encourage more schools to visit the Western Riverside Waste Authority site to see the implications of not recycling properly. Officers welcomed this suggestions and explained that they were encouraging their colleagues from other authorities to re-adopt something similar to the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign.
Officers highlighted the questions listed in appendix 1 of the report and asked residents to give their views on them by 10th October before the formal consultation was launched. It was agreed that an update on this item would be considered by the Committee in January.
That the report and the proposed resident consultation be noted.