Open Letter To Cllr Hamida Ali, Leader Of Croydon Council
Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Dear Cllr Ali,
I hope this message finds you well - we are Litter Free Norbury (litterfreenorbury.org), an association of Norbury area residents, who are fed up with the litter and fly-tipping in our neighbourhood, which has increased significantly over the last few years. Word of our work has travelled FAR & WIDE.
I hope you will find time to read this letter as we have some suggestions that will be beneficial to us all. We would like to cover:
- Who we are and why we feel taken for granted
- Our needs and why helping us is in fact helping you
- A request to give us HOPE, and what we mean by this
But before we start, a question: When you look around Norbury (you have you been to Norbury, haven't you?), what do you feel when you see the rubbish bags strewn across the road, the sofas dumped on the high-street, the mattresses propped up by walls, and the fly-tipping of various items in a plethora of places? (Or are the streets swept nice and clean for your arrival, only to return to their filthy state a few hours later - do you see the same Norbury that we do?)
Who are we, and why do we feel taken for granted?
Our understanding of the Operating Model for fly-tipping and litter in Croydon is:
- Litter and Fly-Tipping happens
- 'Street Champions' (aka unpaid local residents) clear up the mess they can, and report larger issues on an App called "Love Clean Streets"
- A council contractor, Veolia, comes and clears this larger mess away a day or two later.
Rinse and repeat ad infinitum. The Council themselves have no active day-to-day involvement whatsoever in this model, and because fly-tipping and littering is on the rise, it means the streets get more messy over time.
So who are we? We are the 'Street Champions' in the above model......only when you think of "Street Champions", you may think of smiley happy people who bounce out of our houses/flats each day, skipping around as we collect the rubbish left by others, high-fiving the people on the street as we do this.
The reality is that litter/fly-tipping can have a really adverse affect on people's mental health (and it really makes you reflect on the selfish side of human nature). Many of us are compelled to undertake this activity simply because our council is letting us down, and there's really no motivation to high five people after ages spent collecting discarded chicken shop boxes or emptying bottles full of yellow liquid (yellow liquid which is only sometimes beer!), before putting the bottles in our litter bags.
Fancy joining us on a litter pick?
Oh, and how much do we get paid for this (?)...NOTHING...even workers in sweatshops, who get paid far less than minimum wage, receive more than us. And what's the reward for our litter picking and fly-tip reporting? We get more litter and fly-tips to clear up just a few hours later. Your "Sweatshop Street Champions" are in fact disillusioned local residents who have no choice but to litter-pick and report fly-tips. We have to get over the EMBARRASSEMENT of street cleaning other people's litter as the alternative is far worse. And sometimes people in the street criticise us as they think that we are paid council street cleaners - what a great life!
Our needs and why helping us is in fact helping you
Our needs are very simple - you need to start ENGAGING with us. Here is a petition - https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-want-a-rubbish-litter-fly-tipping-free-norbury
Have a read of the comments, people are very unhappy. Despite this, we haven't detected any "big idea" to combat the litter/fly-tipping problems, and we have struggled to get anything more than lip service from the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Croydon. And when we hear a senior member of Public Realm state that there is no rubbish/fly-tipping problem in Norbury, how do you think it makes your Sweatshop Street Champions feel? Perhaps you could give both these people a ticking off (and a very hard stare)?
We are sick of the constant mantra of Croydon Council having no money - we have loads of innovative ideas - why don't you start engaging with us? This would be helping you too, as next year is an election year and even die hard labour voters will start to question whether they can tolerate more years with a council who offer no fresh thinking.
We need CHANGE, and together we can implement that change - what's not acceptable is taking us for granted and not engaging.
A request to give us HOPE, and what we mean by this
In order for this problem to stop spiralling out of control and for it to improve, we need to:
- Show a Zero-Tolerance to litter from residents - we have ideas around this, but there is a bigger problem that MUST be solved first:
- Catch and prosecute fly-tippers.
Showing our community that fly-tippers are caught/fined/vehicles crushed etc gives us HOPE that the problem will not be tolerated and it sends a clear message to others tempted by the same behaviour. It also gives us hope that we will one day see the problem as getting better instead of seeing it spiral out of control.
Our community has made a number of reports of severe fly-tipping (videos, license plates etc) and we are not aware of a single instance where anyone is fined. We as a community need regular and highly visible reports of the progress being made to charge the fly-tippers we identify as this would give us HOPE.
Whilst you will say that prosecuting Fly-tippers comes at a cost, you need to see this cost as the price of employing a free work-force. We appreciate that you are not able to name the people whom you prosecute, but you can tie the prosections back to the reports made by the community who have identified them, and show us that OUR HARD WORK is backed by the same on your side. This is the most fundamental change we need to see as our litter picking community feel like we are fighting an uphill battle.
So these are our demands, and the reasons for making them. Do you agree with our points and can you understand why we are unhappy? We look forward to your response!
Image Credit: Graham Mitchell (with thanks)