Allez for the Alleyways!

For a change, I thought I would talk about an issue which is a constant thorn in the side of residents in my ward of St. Michael’s. Can you guess what it might be? No prizes if you said ‘fly tipping’ but well done anyway!

The problem can be broken down into three parts:

1. General and persistent fly tipping on the public highway
2. Dumping of rubbish and debris in the interminable maze of alleyways in the area
3. Piles of filth in people’s front and back gardens.

Now, point number three I find utterly amazing just because some dirty people seem happy to live with stinking piles of rotting waste right under their own windows and noses. Points one and two, whilst disgusting in themselves, show a fairly obvious but nonetheless totally condemnable act, namely to get rid of their rubbish out of sight and smell of themselves. However, I see no real difference in any of these revolting practices as they have the same impact in the end: it ruins the environment and quality of life for everyone else. And that is what we must concentrate on.

Most alleyways are private and not the responsibility of the Council and never have been. There are various parliamentary acts around this issue but they are so old, arcane and invariably useless and unenforceable as to make them virtually redundant.

So, in order to try and help and move this matter forward, I have teamed up with my ward colleagues, Cllrs Naeem Akhtar and David Welsh in the last twelve months to organise clear ups of various alleyways. The reason and logic to us is simple: clean them up and because residents can now use them they will take responsibility for their future use and hopefully the problem will no longer exist.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

It isn’t easy though. It is true that we have had some success with this in parts of the ward where once the alley had been cleared, months later it is still in good condition.

Good, but what to do about the rest of the problem?

It seems to me the only way to tackle this revolting problem is to catch the perpetrators and make them pay for their crime. Easier said than done though I have to say. It never fails to surprise me how rubbish appears yet no one saw where or who it came from. It’s very dispiriting particularly for the vast majority of residents who do not carry out this most filthy and anti-social of acts.
I believe we need to come down hard on offenders and publicise the fact when we do. There is a tendency in some quarters to shy away from fining or taking people to court for fear of being accused of being heavy handed. There are even some who just don’t see it as a serious problem and would rather not do anything. It’s all about education and support they say.

Really? When and where was it ever right to just dump filth in the street?

It is never right. It betrays honest and decent citizens who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace and quiet free from the filth and disgusting behaviour of a small but virulent minority. And we shouldn’t be afraid to say it like it is and seek redress from the criminals who carry out this act.
That’s why we will continue our work to clear up areas that desperately need it with the help of Community Pay back, convicted criminals ordered by the court to work in the community as a way of redress for their crimes. We also encourage the Council, who now have more Neighbourhood Enforcement Officers than ever before, to tackle the filth criminals and stop them in their dirty tracks. They can also prevent rubbish in people’s gardens spilling over onto the public highway or putting their neighbour’s health and wellbeing at risk because they are too lazy to dispose of it correctly. We can help and support those residents who have witnessed some fly tipping to come forward and make a statement so a conviction can be secured.

In the end, everyone wants a nice, clean and comfortable environment to live, play and work in. If that is ruined in or next to your own home the cost is not just in money but also in peace of mind. The old broken windows theory rings as true here as anywhere in the world. Crack down on the so called low level crime and you make more serious crime and behaviour less likely.

What Labour politician standing up for their community could disagree with that? Not me, that’s for sure.


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