Even before the start of Green Capital year, Bristol had an unenviable reputation as the dirtiest place in the West of England. Government statistics reveal that in 2013/14, 10,472 incidents of fly-tipping were reported to Shitty Hall. This compares with 1,258 over the same period for South Gloucestershire and a mere 413 for Bath & NE Somerset.
Things haven’t improved much with the advent of the elite greenwash bunfight either. While the city’s great and good slap each others’ backs over their pretended environmental credentials, Bristolians from Lawrence Hill to Lawrence Weston are complaining about unacceptable levels of litter and fly-tipping in their areas.
But it’s not just in north Bristol that the locals are concerned about filth on the streets and the city in general. South of the Avon too, residents are complaining that fly-tipping is being made worse by the lack of a household waste recycling centre in Hartcliffe. The main reason there isn’t one is that the proposal that is being opposed by Mayor George Ferguson.
Presumably he thinks it’s acceptable for people in south Bristol to drive miles across the city to Avonmouth or St Philips, adding to the city’s congestion and pollution? Nice one George!
And when it does take action against litter louts and fly-tippers, there’s only one word to describe the council’s response – pathetic. Since 2010 only 120 people have been fined or taken to court by the city council for dropping litter, while in the BS5 area – one of the city’s hotspots – enforcement action has been taken against only 32 people.
This low level of enforcement is due to one major reason: council staff cuts. Before 2010 Bristol had a complement of 10 so-called ‘streetscene enforcement officers’ to deal with fly-tipping, litter, fly-posting, dog fouling and other such banes of modern urban living. These 10 officers were assisted in their work by 2 technical support/admin staff and a streetscene enforcement manager whose only other remit was to manage 3 dog wardens.
Following the 2010 general election and George Ferguson’s election as mayor the city was promised “no cuts to frontline services”. Yet the streetscene enforcement team has since consistently lost staff and no replacements recruited. The team is now down to 4.7 officers only and managed by a man with no knowledge of environmental legislation or how to investigate and prosecute a case.
Is it any wonder that reported fly-tips in the city more than doubled over the period in which the team has been more than halved?
The word from the streets is that this situation is unlikely to improve in the near future. Since August waste management and street cleansing have been taken back in house after Kier/May Gurney walked away from their contract with the council pleading lack of profitability despite doing a crap job and BCC never penalising them for doing so.