Council leader’s cross-party devolution plan to ‘take the politics out of street cleaning’
In the final part of an interview to mark his first 30 days in office, Birmingham city council leader John Clancy tells Chamberlain Files’ chief blogger Paul Dale he is determined to improve street cleaning and bin collection services:
John Clancy has promised to be “open and honest” about one of the most contentious issues in Birmingham – why it seems so difficult to have clean streets.
He is ready to publish records showing current cleaning rotas for every street in Birmingham, information which he believes will lift the lid on an unfair and haphazard system.
Information uncovered so far indicates that some areas are “over-cleaned” while other parts of Birmingham suffer because they are “under-cleaned”, he said.
Clancy, the council’s Labour leader, wants to work with opposition Tory and Liberal Democrat group leaders Robert Alden and Paul Tilsley to develop an approach to street cleaning in each of the 40 wards that is far more responsive to local needs.
The cross-party initiative is intended to send a clear signal to the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel that the council leadership is addressing the Kerslake Review, which said that opposition councillors are left out of the decision making process for the areas they represent.
Promising to “take the politics out of street cleaning” Cllr Clancy said he wanted to know why some parts of Birmingham were cleaned far more regularly than others areas.
Street cleaning rotas are organised by the council’s four fleet and waste management depots.
Cllr Clancy said he thought “organisational difficulties” were to blame for inconsistent performance and there was no indication of political interference.
He added: “I am hoping to work with Cllr Alden and Cllr Tilsley to develop a consensus around cleaning up the city.
“We have got to start to get the city council to do its job properly. We have to be honest about the cleanliness of the city. I don’t believe that strategically we have got proper consistent performance across all neighbourhoods in all 40 wards about how we clean the city on a daily basis.
“We will be making the data around street cleaning far more publicly available so it will become clear where we are currently not doing the things we should be doing.
“I want this to be something we take politics out of. We need to make cleanliness one of the top priorities.
“There are parts of Birmingham that are over-cleaned and parts that are under-cleaned in the current system. I want to share that information with people.
“We need open data and transparency and we have to be honest about what is happening.”
Modernising street cleaning and refuse disposal services is likely to be a key aim of the new Clancy administration. Surveys regularly place dirty streets and missed bin collections as a major concern among council tax payers.
Cllr Lisa Trickett, the cabinet member responsible for bins, shocked colleagues when she told the December full council meeting “there is no fairy godmother to improve what is an appalling service”.
A radical overhaul of refuse collection and street cleaning is planned, with the council aiming to cut costs by £17.6 million a year by 2019-20. A review will examine privatising the service, although Cllr Trickett insisted there were no plans to do so at the moment.
Cllr Clancy wants to take decision making about basic services like refuse collection and street cleaning far closer to neighbourhood level.
In his “Every Place Matters” manifesto for the Labour group leadership, he stated: “Our city’s devolution has to become based in the most local place. We must see that decisions about our local areas are being influenced, shaped and led fundamentally in our most local areas. Devolution should be reset to reflect this.
“Decisions need to be seen to be and actually influenced, shaped and led locally by communities. They should also involve those who locally deliver services, together with the actual users of the services of the council.
“The influencing, shaping, leading and challenge of other public and 3rd sector providers in the most local appropriate area needs to come locally too, in line with Kerslake principles.
“All of this needs to come mostly at ward level. This includes rubbish and recycling, roads and pavements, trees, parks, lighting and keeping our city’s wards clean and safe.”
He also promised to introduce an open data council “on the basis of transparency and co-operation with our own citizens, partners and businesses”.
He has promised that “the books and contracts and deals the city makes, and has made, will become a matter of public record”.
Cllr Clancy said: “This will better enable citizens, partners and businesses to help us and the city make the right choices. It will also enable others to identify how better to run and lead our city and make the best and most efficient use of our limited resources.”
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