Tag: clean

A big cleaning bill

I find Swindon Borough Council’s approach to fly-posting both half-hearted and inefficient.

The cost of removing a poster zip-tied to a tree or lamp-post is about £20 while a poster fixed to another surface could cost up to £200…. Mr Palacio said: “We are keen to stress that we are not trying to ban anyone from putting up posters – we just want to make sure that they are not left lying around for ages after the event is over.”

I can see that something that is very firmly glued in place may be expensive to remove, given the staff time and equipment needed — steam cleaning, for example. But £20 to remove a poster tied to a tree? Even if this includes the cost of someone at the council’s contact centre dealing with a report first, there must be a very inefficient process between the first report and the final snip to remove the poster to run-up a bill of £20. And why wait until after the event to get tough with the culprits? Fly-posting of the type shown in the Adver’s story is unsightly from the moment it is posted, not just several months later.

Measuring success

If the only measure of success for a project is that it meets its principle objective then, as rather inaccurately reported in the Adver, the changes to waste and recycling collections in Swindon have been a success, with an almost 60% increase in recycling*. However, a project also needs to be measured by what other effects it has and any well-managed project will have a number of other, secondary, criteria for success. Complaint levels of ‘20 or 30 a day’ may be low compared with the reported number of collections, 860,000 per month, but without a comparison with the number of complaints before the changes, is no measure of success. And if Mr Harcourt believes that ‘Swindon is now a tidier town’ then he’s clearly not set foot on the streets of central Swindon.

*Unlike the Adver report, I do know how to do percentages: an increase in the recycling rate from 27.3% to 43.5% is an increase in the recycling rate of just over 16 percentage points, or an increase of almost 60 per cent.

An invisible team: local elections 2008 round 2

Flying the flag for hypocrisyYesterday I received a letter through the post from Ms Snelgrove. Not the most local affair, having been printed in London and with a return address on the envelope in Newcastle upon Tyne. Apparently, she’s had an

Action Team in Central to listen to your concerns about anti-social behaviour and the mounting rubbish on your streets.

The letter even solicits for volunteers to her ‘Keep Central Clean and Safe Team’. Ms Snelgrove seems not to realise that listening is not itself action. Even if it were, her ‘team’ have been most noticeable by their absence. The rubbish is now subsiding, especially since the council started putting little orange ‘Council aware’ labels on bags of rubbish left for days on the streets. The rubbish was ‘mounting’ on the streets several months ago, when Ms Snelgrove’s ‘Keep Central Clean and Safe Team’ didn’t even exist… not that there’s any evidence it exists at all. There’s no evidence of in on the local red nest’s website, nor on Ms Snelgrove’s.

The only things that are mounting now are the local election campaigns… and Ms Snelgrove’s hypocrisy. Real action speaks much louder than words.

Passing the wheelie

I’m not overly interested in what the reasons may be for Mr Wren’s decision to prematurely leave his post as cabinet member for local environment on Swindon Borough Council. (Whatever the reason, I’m sure any formal announcement will include an attempt at humour of the ‘following the successful introduction of borough-wide kerbside recycling…’ variety.) Let’s just hope that his proposed successor, Mr Mattock starts with a little humility by admitting that the introduction of wheelie bins and blue bags for non-recyclable waste has poorly implemented.

The first step to improving services is admitting that they are not as good as they could, or should, be. The first step to learning how to make those improvements is admitting that mistakes were made.

How long will blue bags last?

With rubbish collections due tomorrow in this area, I see that, quite apart from the ‘no more black bags’ message having not got through, the ‘only two blue bags per week’ message still hasn’t got through to many households either: there are some with over twice that number put out for collection… regularly. And as the dustmen, whilst refusing to collect black bags, seem to quite contentedly collect any number of blue bags, I reckon that some people will soon be running out. At which point, they’ll revert to using black bags… which won’t be collected. Swindon in the spring is going to look so pretty….


I’m not sure what Mr Glaholm is on, but it is clearly strong stuff. His suggestion on how to solve the problems with waste and recycling collections is pure fantasy.

I think what we need now is for Anne Snelgrove to call for a public meeting on this. She’s the one person with the connections that could make it happen and who could be viewed as independent by both sides.

There are many things Ms Snelgrove may be but, as her ignominious voting record in the House of Commons and her many partisan interventions in local politics show, she is neither independent nor seen as such. She’s already had her say on this topic, and it was little more than a party-political jibe.

Mr Glaholm’s other thought on this subject, that the change in waste and recycling collections would have been much more successful if done area by area is also based on an assumption which, for this council, is just plain wrong.

When I was on that working party I suggested that rather than a blanket roll-out we should do it slowly, but I was told the council had the bins in West Swindon and knew what would happen. But it was a mistake. Rolling out everywhere at the same time meant that we learned as we went along – instead of looking at areas where we could learn from best practice.

The evidence so far is that the council has no interest in learning anything from its mistakes and prefers to flatly deny that any mistakes were made.

A wheelie success…

I see from the December edition of Central Outlook that Ms Darker is having a few problems with the English language.

Fly-tipping In Central
Residents have complained to me that some irresponsible people are dumping their black bags. Our officers have been through the black bags and have ascertained names and addresses of those guilty of dumping and they will be prosecuted. The wheelie bin rollout has been hugely successful and I hope residents will contact me with details of any dumping so that we can tackle this immediately. I fully support the Council policy to introduce wheelie bins. We face the threat of a fine from Government if we don’t meet our target to recycle and and reduce landfill. This fine could be as much as 6 – 7% on Council Tax so we are determined to reach our target.

Someone should contact the Oxford English Dictionary, to advise them to add ‘chaotic and incompetent’ to the definition of ‘successful’.

Where’s the rubbish go?

I see that the latest pronouncements from Swindon Borough Council on their rubbish collections over the Christmas period has sparked off more speculation over whether what is collected for ‘recycling’ is actually recycled or still goes to landfill anyway. I can’t readily find anything that states what happens to Swindon’s rubbish after collection, but what I have found is that a fair bit of Dorset’s rubbish (the aluminium and some of the paper, to be precise) ends up being recycled in Swindon.

Jumping on the refuse wagon

With it being less than a month since Swindon Borough Council introduced weekly kerbside recycling, it’s far too early to draw conclusions as to its impact… unless you’re Ms Snelgrove that is. We can, as always, rely on Ms Snelgrove to jump in with a bit of cheap political point scoring.

Figures I have seen have Swindon Council’s recycling and composting rate at 32 per cent, and it is excellent that they are doing what they are doing. But when you look at Wiltshire County Council it is recycling 38 per cent of the waste it collects. So although it looks like we’re doing okay what we need to be doing is exceeding our targets. MPs need to keep the pressure on our councils so that they beat their targets quickly and we can all reduce our carbon footprints.

Recycling is about re-use of materials; reducing carbon footprint is about reducing energy consumption. Ms Snelgrove isn’t the first to assume the two are inextricably linked, but for her to restate it does highlight her ignorance of the issues.

Mr Bluh, leading the defence for the council, has, presumably, seen some more up-to-date figures than Ms Snelgrove has.

We’ve already achieved 38 per cent currently, and that will climb once the new service has settled down.

You may also recall Ms Snelgrove’s previous statement that she always puts the concerns of her electorate first. Compare and contrast.

Ms Snelgrove:

One of the big problems we have in this town is that the main recycling point we have is in the northern part of the borough. I think we need a new facility in the south of the borough. It could be a one-off capital project. Once up and running it would not cost too much to maintain and it would make a huge difference to the amount we recycle. We all know the council is receiving a fair amount of cash from building works – I cannot think of a better issue to put money into.

Mr Bluh:

All the changes we’ve made this year have cost the council an extra £2m to introduce, yet we’ve had no financial assistance from the Government to do it…. When we consulted residents about what they thought our priorities for waste should be, they placed a comprehensive kerbside recycling service for the whole borough, including plastic bottles, above a second waste site. We’ve now delivered that.

I suppose it should come as no surprise really that Ms Snelgrove is trying to spend more of our money and would no doubt be the first to complain if council tax had to rise to deliver her plans. That said, there couldn’t be a more apt monument to Ms Snelgrove than a centre for collecting and recycling rubbish. I trust she’ll be at the front of the queue when it opens, with copies of most of her press statements and parliamentary speaches.

The introduction of the new recycling service may have been incompetent, but in picking her latest target for petty political point scoring, Ms Snelgrove has totally missed the main concerns of her electorate.