Council's Street Scene services branded 'complete failure'

Doncaster Council’s Street Scene services have been described as a ‘complete failure’ with mass vacancies and basic operations like grass cutting and litter collection not taking place.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 12:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 3:15 pm

Councillors lined up to blast the service when grilling officers at a recent scrutiny meeting. One claimed grass patches were being cut, and were sometimes filled with plastic bottles.

Bosses responded and said reductions in budget did play a part in poor performance and more investment was needed. An independent review is being carried out into the services.

So-called ‘action weeks’ are also in the pipeline where a large amount of council staff go out and clear fly-tipping hotspots and take part in litter picks. But bosses admitted staff are pulled from other departments to do this.

Rubbish dumped, off Church Way, Doncaster. Picture: NDFP-05-03-19-Litter-2

Officers in charge of Street Scene operations at Doncaster Council were alerted to the work not being done in July 2019.

A ‘rapid improvement plan’ has been implemented and a full investigation was undertaken following the complaints.

A report seen by councillors shows that officers also uncovered a ‘variety of other issues’ in relation to the operations in the department.

Officers said there was a ‘lack of and inadequate allocation of resources’ which led to ‘key hotspot areas’ not being tended to.

Fly-tipping in Hexthorpe

There was also said to be ‘failed channels of communication’ between councillors and DMBC staff, ‘problems with IT processes and systems’ and the ‘method in which work is reported’.

“This has been a complete failure,” Conisbrough and Denaby councillor, Ian Pearson told officers.

“I’m horrified at the number of times we raise issues and somebody sends the lowest ranking officer possible to a meeting because they know there’s going to flak.

“There’s the Environmental Protection Act which officers are well aware and Street Scene fail that with its litter collection, mowing up plastic bottles, putting particles into the atmosphere in highly polluted areas.

“We have mowing taking place where contracts have ended from one side operator to another and they’ve not done it and we’ve paid them to do it.

“I have deep concerns about remarks around rapid improvement because most of the public and it’s about a third of the complaints I receive, is the failure of Street Scene.

“Why have you gone out to spend money on a consultant when you could find out what’s wrong from staff, the public and councillors? You’re wasting money again.”

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Grass cutting and litter picking were 'not carried out' in Doncaster

Rossington and Bawtry councillor, Mick Cooper questioned if the service had the right people in management positions.

Coun Cooper was a former DMBC officer and horticultural expert.

“I don’t think for one minute you’ve got enough horticultural expertise in your top six layers of management - it has been disrespectful to that service,” he said.

“You’ve got grounds maintenance parks being managed by people with absolutely no knowledge of it and that will come back and bite you - it’s a serious issue.”

Adwick and Carcroft councillor, David Hughes also raised the issues of vacancies within the service and litter picking.

DMBC bosses said there are 17 unfilled roles but recruitment was well under way with some ‘credible candidates’.

How can you run a service when you haven’t got the manpower? I know you’ve got a lot of vacancies in a lot of parts,” Coun Hughes said.

“And on litter picking, they come round in my village on a Tuesday and on Wednesday the bin men come round emptying the bins. Could we get it in order that we don’t litter pick a day before the bins are emptied? It’s making it worse because the bin men sometimes leave litter and this is a problem.”

Panel chair Coun Mark Houlbrook added: “There seems to be reoccurring issues here - a lack of investment and a lack of resources to name a few.”

Peter Dale, director of environmental services which includes Street Scene, said: “The issues being raised is why we’re having this review.

“On the consultant, we have to go externally and APSE (Association of Public Service Excellence) - the body we’ve chosen - work in the public sector right across the country. They know what is best practice and what is a fair price to deliver a service and they’ll know if we have the right amount of expertise.

“I do believe we need more investment in the service in order to carry out what we want and need to do.

“We’ll then have a blueprint to make changes but it does take time. The points we’re hearing come from a lot of people and we are committed to making these improvements.”