Liberal Democrat councillors have sounded the alarm over the abolition of the popular StreetWatchers scheme – which involved local people volunteering time and effort to report issues on the streets of the borough in an effort to keep Brent’s streets clean.
The scheme has been quietly abandoned by Brent’s Labour-run council, despite the fact that the streets are dirtier than ever following Labour’s street cleaning cuts.
There has been no public announcement of the end of the scheme. Indeed the StreetWatcher webpage at www.brent.gov.uk/streetcare2.nsf/pages/lbb-120 was advertising for new streetwatchers as recently as Tuesday 20 March and was only taken down after the Liberal Democrats expressed our concerns.
Councillor Gavin Sneddon, who represents Willesden Green, discovered the scheme had ended after being contacted by a local resident keen to take part because of her concern about the state of local streets.
Cllr Ann Hunter and Cllr Gavin Sneddon
The council can get more done with the help and participation of local volunteers than it can do alone. Streets in Willesden Green and across the borough are crying out for a bit more care and attention. The council has abandoned its eyes and ears in the community. This is an admission that Labour’s street cleaning cuts have left the council unable to keep our borough clean.
Councillor Daniel Brown, who was responsible for the StreetWatchers scheme when the Liberal Democrats ran the council and helped the scheme celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2009, said:
For twelve years the StreetWatchers scheme has helped the council identify problems and respond to them. Labour’s street cleaning cuts mean that rubbish is being left lying in our streets for ever-longer periods. It’s time for the serious action plan which the Liberal Democrats have been calling for. This will put right the mistakes that the Labour administration has made.
Councillor Daniel Brown (brown jacket) and streetwatcher volunteers celebrate the 10th anniversary of the popular streetwatcher scheme
At Monday night’s Brent Council meeting (21 November) the Labour councillors running Brent expressed satisfaction with their reduced street cleaning service and refused to accept that local streets are getting dirtier.
Portfolio Holder Jim Moher even accused the opposition of making up the photos which showed evidence of overflowing bins and dirty residential streets!
Councillor Moher was responding to Liberal Democrat calls for the new street cleaning system introduced by Labour to be revised and improved, in order to address the increase of litter and rubbish around the borough.
In October Labour councillors cut the frequency of street sweeping in residential streets to just once a week. Earlier this year these same streets were swept three times a week.
NO street sweeping now takes place after 2pm at the weekends. Because street sweepers are also responsible for emptying street litter bins, these are now not emptied frequently enough and overflow. Responsible residents are left with nowhere to put their litter once the bins are full.
Labour also cut the special leaf clearance service, meaning that the piles of leaves are now cleared much more slowly and the risk of people slipping on wet leaves is increased.
Cllr Gavin Sneddon, Liberal Democrat councillor for Willesden Green, highlighted the litter around Dollis Hill tube station and pointed out that the problems was likely to get worse:
The effect is cumulative, as each time the street cleaners come round there is more litter and rubbish than before to clean up. We also have a big problem with overflowing litter bins at the weekend, as street cleaning staff are no longer around to empty the bins when they fill up. It’s essential the council takes action to target the worst areas.
Liberal Democrat council Group Leader Paul Lorber said:
Brent was notorious for its dirty streets when Labour last ran the Council between 1998 and 2006. The situation improved massively when the Lib Dem led council increased street sweeping to three times per week between 2006 and 2010. Labour has turned the clock back and is once again leaving our streets in a mess.
Labour portfolio holders must be walking around with their eyes closed if they haven’t noticed any problems.
Willesden Green’s Liberal Democrat councillors have welcomed the award of £500,000 from the Outer London Fund to help improve Willesden Green town centre before the Olympics.
However they have warned the money must be invested in projects that will have a lasting impact and not just spent to give a temporary boost to the area.
Cllr Gavin Sneddon said:
Willesden Green already has some good shops, especially restaurants and cafes, but there is a lot of potential for improvement. The High Street is let down by the number of vacant and dilapidated premises. Brent Council must make the most of this extra funding.
Investing local trainees and students to make premises more attractive will benefit residents and businesses as well as giving the students valuable experience.
Cllr Ann Hunter added:
We need to make sure the benefits are spread right along the High Street and Walm Lane and not just on the library centre site.
I am keen to see progress with the project to improve the entrance and forecourt to Sainsbury’s in the High Street, which is going to involve several local groups like Transition Town Willesden and St. Mungo’s and to improve the environment around the tube station.
We want to make Willesden Green a really attractive place to visit!
The largest portion of the £500,000 grant is set to be spent on physical improvements to premises including new shop fronts, internal repairs and decoration (£200,000). In return for the improvements landlords will need to agree to provide the shops rent-free to local organisations and start-up businesses which will employ trainees.
£100,000 is set to be spent on “animation of the high street with temporary, experiential and permanent public art installations” and £50,000 on Christmas lights and decorations.
Cllr Ann Hunter and Cllr Gavin Sneddon are working to improve Willesden Town Centre