Kathy May, Head of Waste and Street Enforcement, explained that the consultation on Waste and Street Cleaning had been proposed to the meeting of the PAC on 21 September 2015. The consultation had closed early due to misleading publicity but answers received at that point had been collated, together with suggestions on how the service could be improved. An action plan had been developed from these suggestions and officers were working to implement this plan, whilst the responses to the consultation were included in the agenda pack for Members’ consideration. Kathy May invited questions and comments.
A resident asked what the Council was doing to reduce the amount of fly-tipping. Kathy May explained that there were some changes in the action plan aimed at reducing fly-tipping, but noted that other local authorities across London were also facing an increase in dumped rubbish. The resident suggested that the Council could use its resources more effectively and suggested:
- Reporting of fly-tips by the crews of refuse lorries and by street sweepers.
- Fly-tip collection vans following refuse lorries.
- PCSOs reporting fly-tips.
- Routine inspections by Councillors and residents.
- The Council providing larger bins for storing waste.
- Better communication between Council departments such as Public Health, Environment and Housing.
- A focus on clearing waste rather than investigating where it had come from.
- Increased enforcement against fly-posters.
Kathy May explained that crews were already supposed to report dumped waste, although she didn’t have figures at the meeting on how many reports were made. She noted that there were not sufficient vans to follow all of the refuse lorries, and that PCSOs had a number of other priorities. Councillors explained that in some areas the larger style bins, with a flip over lid, appeared to work well and that encouragement should be offered to increase their use in appropriate areas. Sue Harris apologised for issues around communication between departments, which she understood were now resolved. Kathy May noted that clearing waste without investigating it would mean that those dumping it were more likely to get away with it, and a ‘clear all’ policy would likely cost a significant amount. Councillor Harcourt asked that fly-posting be reported in order that it could be investigated, but noted that some advertisements, such as estate agents boards, were harder to control because of legal issues. He also asked that reporting options for frontline staff be looked into.
A resident said that he felt that waste dumped at hotspots ought to be investigated, but that otherwise investigation was a poor use of resources. Another resident said that there had been no successful prosecutions in his area for fly-tipping and felt that investigations needed to lead to prosecutions to be worthwhile. Kathy May explained that lots of investigation took place, but that it was difficult to gather sufficient evidence to prosecute. The Chair asked how many officers worked on enforcement, and how many collected the dumped waste. Kathy May explained that there were 8 enforcement officers, who spent approximately 75% of their time investigating dumped rubbish. She did not know how many contractor staff collected fly-tipped waste, but agreed to provide this figure to the Chair. Councillor Harcourt explained that intensive work had been taking place at Lakeside Road which had been a hotspot for dumping. CCTV had been installed, together with signs warning those tempted to fly-tip of the number of successful prosecutions on the road.
Councillor Coleman asked how fly-tip crews decided what to collect. Kathy May explained that crews were sent to collect a particular item or fly-tip, but that they then had discretion to collect other items; there was however a limit to the capacity of their van. Kathy May also explained that some items which were under investigation by enforcement officers could not be collected until officers had gathered evidence.
Councillor Fennimore explained that she had suggested the stickers from residents referred to in the action plan, and asked how this scheme would be publicised. Kathy May explained that they were being trialled in Lakeside Road, and if successful they would then be extended to other areas, probably based on demand. Councillor Fennimore asked that they be rolled out to several more streets now.
A resident asked how much progress had been made on Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) being charged a levy for waste collection. Kathy May explained that the idea was being pursued, but that it would take some time. Sue Harris explained that officers from authorities across London were looking into the issue and a report was due in six months’ time.
A resident highlighted the issue of abandoned bicycles not being collected. He said that there were six bikes at the front of Hammersmith Town Hall which had been there for well over a year, despite his reporting them as abandoned. Sue Harris apologised that these had not been dealt with. The Chair suggested that abandoned bicycles could be identified as part of the audit of cycle racks being carried out by the Borough’s cycling officer, Richard Duffill.
A resident asked how good the Council’s reporting systems were, as he had found that not all reports were dealt with appropriately. Kathy May explained that the ‘Report It’ app had been audited recently and the flow of reports through the system had been good. Councillor Harcourt said that he regularly reported issues using the app and the website which were then resolved by officers.
Councillor Dewhirst noted that the Council had shifted its focus from littering to fly-tipping and asked whether this was effective. Councillor Harcourt explained that he had decided to concentrate on rubbish dumping as the amount of littering had reduced, whilst rubbish dumping had become a greater problem.
The Chair asked whether a leaflet explaining waste arrangements to residents of Houses of Multiple Occupancy had been produced. Kathy May explained that these leaflets would be distributed in areas with a high density of HMOs by the end of the month. New leaflets to be sent with Council tax bills would also be produced, with one specifically for new residents and one for existing residents. The Council Tax bills would not, however, include details of the collection day as this would be complex and the I.T. systems were not capable of identifying this information. The Council planned to install better signage in streets to tell residents of their collection days.
A resident asked where information on what could be recycled was available. Kathy May explained that bags and signs had to be kept simple, but said that there was more information on the website. The resident felt that more information could be on the website.
A resident asked what was done about waste dumped by businesses. Sue Harris explained that businesses were being written to, reminding them of their responsibilities. Night time enforcement officers were being recruited and would be taking action against businesses which were dumping waste. Councillors and residents could report waste dumped by businesses, and it was likely that any waste outside businesses not in a marked bag would be dumped. The Chair asked whether, when writing to businesses about their waste arrangements, officers informed them that the Council offered a waste collection service. Kathy May said that the Council did inform businesses that it offered the service, but referred to the right of businesses to go with other licenced waste carriers as this is what is stated in legislation.
A resident asked whether issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for littering was self-funding. Sue Harris explained that the current model was not self-funding, however, officers were exploring alternative options which may be. The main difficulty was that collecting unpaid fines was not self-funding owing to high legal costs and low income.
Councillor Hamilton asked what dates the consultation had run. Sue Harris explained that the consultation had finished slightly early owing to misleading publicity being distributed by some local groups, which was likely to influence the results of the survey. Councillor Harcourt agreed to send the dates the consultation had run to Councillor Hamilton.
The Chair thanked residents for contributing to a lively and interesting debate.