Litter and fly-tipping complaints soar, new figures reveal
Town Hall says new smartphone system has made it easier for people to report rubbish
01 March, 2018 — By Richard Osley
A dumped mattress
COMPLAINTS of litter and fly-tipping have soared since Camden’s controversial waste contract changes which saw weekly bin collections removed from some streets, new figures released by the Town Hall show.
The Tories, who uncovered the statistics, say the numbers are proof that the council strategy has backfired. But Labour council chiefs responded by saying they had simply made it easier for people to report problems using smartphones, leading to an inevitable rise in recorded complaints.
The issue is one of the Conservative Party’s attack lines ahead of the local elections, now just two months away, when they will pledge in their manifesto to restore weekly pick-ups to all roads. Predictably, Labour and Tory accounts vary about how often the issue comes up on the doorstep.
Henry Newman, who is standing for the Tories in Frognal and Fitzjohns ward, has shared scores of pictures of himself next to piles of rubbish over the past year – so-called belfies, or bin selfies. He asked for the council’s official figures on litter and fly-tipping, and now says the response should lead to a review of the contract that Camden has with waste contractor Veolia.
Camden’s figures show that, in quarters two to four of 2016, there were 216 complaints of litter, while over the same period in 2017 – after the changes had been implemented last April – there were 1,545 alerts. For fly-tipping, there were 5,285 complaints in the last nine months of 2016, but nearly double – 9,702 – over the same months in 2017.
On average, this suggest Camden receives 35 complaints of fly-tipping a day.
Mr Newman said: “These figure show a staggering increase since the Labour Party broke their manifesto promise and – with Liberal Democrat support – cut bin collections to once a fortnight. I’ve been documenting dozens of examples of fly-tipping but we now know there are some 35 reports every day.” He added: “Camden Council promised that the service will be reviewed annually and they could tweak the system where necessary. It’s coming up to a year since the bin collection cuts, so it’s time for Labour to accept it’s not working, listen to residents and bring back weekly bin collections.”
Labour, however, says Mr Newman is misreading the trend in Camden, and that the ease with which people could now raise complaints meant quicker responses. Veolia staff have also been asked to record fly-tipping on their rounds.
Environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison said: “In 2018, we are able to harness the power of the smartphone to get more reports sent in and dealt with more quickly. Since we introduced the downloadable Clean Camden app, with great enthusiasm residents have taken up reporting while they are out and about. We receive around 500 reports through the app each month, helping us to take action.
He added: “I have to say, it sometimes feels as though some politicians in the borough would prefer to avoid the small matter of the individual responsibility of the flytipper. Rampant individualism may be attractive to them, but dumping stuff wherever you feel like it is a social drain on the funding we need to support valuable services like adult social care and schools. “The hyper-individualism of fly-tipping must not end up being an extra tab for ratepayers to pick up collectively.”
Although a helpline was jammed in the first weeks during what were described as “teething problems”, the council is expected to continue with the new format. The scheme was meant to cut costs but also increase recycling from Camden’s low rate, as a weekly pick-up of recyclables has continued. Cllr Harrison said Camden saw a 10 per cent rise in recycling soon after the changes.