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Dec 09 2013

Leaders Blog: Christmas and Gritting – December 9, 2013

susan_hall_leaderIF your household is anything like mine, Christmas is – amid the festive scenes – a byword for bin mayhem. Wrapping paper, boxes, cartons, food waste, you name it, it piles up in our bins and on our doorsteps. Nothing new there, you might remark (although toy manufacturers seem to be making at least some concession to not encasing action figures in near bullet-proof layers of plastic).

What is new is that the council has employed two new officers – Marcus Afrifa and Jason Rawal – whose job is specifically to help householders with recycling. A third officer is being recruited as we speak to join them. You will remember that the creation of this three-person recycling team was one of my early priorities on forming the new administration in October.

This week, the recycling team are continuing with their mission to talk to every household in areas where we don’t perform so well in waste recycling. The intrepid duo are touring three roads a day and talking to people about how they can help them recycle even more. It’s important to stress here that the recycling team are here to help – not to lecture, hand out penalty notices, tell people off for having their bin lid an inch open or sift through their rubbish (though they will do that if you ask them).

The team’s borough-wide purpose is to bring down the amount of rubbish we have to send to landfill – and this year, that will be around 87,000 tonnes. The reason this figure matters – aside from the obvious environmental concern – is that the council has to pay £100-plus per tonne to send this rubbish to landfill, and that is money the taxpayers of Harrow ultimately have to provide. When the car boots fly open at the Civic Amenity site after Boxing Day, the aim is for us to ensure as much of that rubbish as possible can live again – as new cans, cardboard boxes or other items.

By the way, Marcus and Jason are also promoting the work of Neighbourhood Champions on their eco-travels – you will remember that one of the really useful roles of an NC is helping both us and the police tackle grot-spots and graffiti where they crop up. So far, the recycling duo say they are coming away with a new NC recruit in every street! As you know that my aim is to recruit an NC on every street – 2,068 to be precise – that’s a fair amount of pavement pounding ahead of Marcus and Jason.

The other council service coming into its seasonal own right now is gritting. With temperatures starting to drop, our six-vehicle fleet has been out on six occasions since mid-November – not only to de-ice main roads but also to top up the borough’s 106 gritting bins.

It is one of those hardy perennials that councils get accused of not having prepared properly or having enough grit in when the really sharp cold spells strike, but our Forward Drive teams are – without sounding complacent – ready for the worst. Our depot has more than 2,000 tonnes of grit standing by, which should cover us for a prolonged bitter spell (we used up 1,300 tonnes during the prolonged snow of 2011, for example).

Both of these services – recycling and gritting – are major pillars of our cleaner, safer and fairer agenda. They keep our borough clean and safe for motorists and pedestrians alike. While councils can’t control the weather, we can cater for it – and I will be at the depot again soon to watch the Kier MG teams show true grit as they load up the lorries to cope with the worst and keep Harrow’s main roads clear.

Footnote: The original article referred to ‘Forward Way’ – it should, of course, have been ‘Forward Drive’

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3 comments

  1. John Clement

    Please could you visit Station Parade, Northolt Road Harrow HA2 in South Harrow. Many of the residents there just fly tip their rubbish. Even though there are recycling bins on the street very few people in this block use them, preferring instead to be lazy obnoxious and anti-social.

  2. Susan Hall

    I will do, we had a massive clear up of the Northolt Road recently on our Safer Street action day. I despair with the way some of our residents behave. Their bad behaviour makes it ghastly for us all to live in and costs us Council Tax payers money, our money, to clear up. Shame on them – as said I will look into it and ask enviro crime officers to visit.

  3. PraxisReform

    Looking at the figures for recycling rates in London’s boroughs, I see that Harrow has slipped from 48.2% in year 2011/12 to 45% in year 2012/13, which is still way ahead of Lewisham’s 20%. So, well done on being better than Lewisham and well done on taking action before Harrow’s recycling rate falls off more dramatically.

    I personally also appreciate the clarification that Marcus and Jason, etc. aren’t being hired to snoop, spy and generate revenue, based on minor rules infractions.

    Borrowing from the list of your budget changes given on another website, I see:

    “£125,000 on a recycling support team which aims to increase Harrow’s recycling rate by 50 per cent”

    Now, I realise that Marcus, Jason and the other new hire will need an amount of administrative support, business cards, stamps, phones, uniforms, rubber gloves etc. which I assume is factored into the £125K, but around £40,000 / person seems like a lot of money for someone to basically go around telling people how to classify their own waste, and when to leave it out for collection.

    More interesting is whether an increase Harrow’s recycling rate by 50% is achievable? I see that the London borough with the highest rate is Bexley with 54%. So, is it realistic to give this team a target of getting Harrow to recycle 67.5% of its waste next year?

    Even if Marcus and Jason, etc. are highly paid experts, their new role sounds to me like they’re being handed a poisoned chalice.

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