It’s my pleasure to bring you exciting news that’ll no doubt bring a sparkle to your step this summer’s day. Yes, I can announce there’s going to be a clean-up day in Charlton. Yes – the streets are going to be swept!
Well, not in my street. And probably not in your street either. But it’s nice to know that some streets are going to be given a belated spring-clean.
The initiative comes courtesy of the Charlton Central Residents Association, which represents a block of streets between the railway line, Victoria Way and Charlton Church Lane, but not actually including those streets. I wrote about them in 853‘s predecessor blog, the last bus home, last year when I tried to join. They weren’t having it – I didn’t live in their streets, so I’d have to go through some tedious procedure to get co-opted in there. Probably for administrative convenience, but despite the fact that I buy my morning paper in their patch, I walk through there to catch a train or a bus, and I trip over the same unswept rubbish they do. A strange do, but there you go. They did let me hang around their annual meeting, though; a fellow Victoria Way resident who was there who was also denied membership decided not to bother.
They even referred to me in their newsletter (PDF, 3MB): “The aim of the Association is to create a safe and friendly community, present a unified voice on local issues and promote social links between residents. Though the area covered may increase in time, at the moment we want to keep things small but beautiful with a “village feel”. Sorry, Last Bus Home, for any inconvenience caused!” I’m not sure how allowing a couple of residents of neighbouring streets to pay a subscription and keep in touch with the group, perhaps offering their skills and help to achieve a common goal, would detract from that, but there you go.
Anyhow, their latest newsletter (PDF, 3.4MB) trumpets their “big clean-up day” – on Saturday 4 July. Apparently, the council will provide vehicles and staff to help, and this will be followed up by “an intensive clean of gutters, drains and pavements” by council staff.
This has got to be a good thing – but doesn’t this let the council off the hook? Surely this organisation – whose chair is a former Labour councillor – should be asking the authority why it doesn’t keep the gutters, drains and pavements clean in the first place; and demanding an assurance that once clean, they will stay clean? And making sure the three local councillors, who belong to the ruling Labour party, are pressing for just that?
Even the CCRA’s own poll suggests that its own people are unhappy with the way the council neglects the streets of SE7. A community clean-up day will, at least, get the street clean, but it is also, to an extent, doing the council’s job for it. I wonder if the participants will get a small council tax refund?
Here also lies the problem with Greenwich Council – it simply can’t deal with individual residents, it prefers to deal with friendly organisations. Unless you know the names of council officials and can bypass its call centres, you’ve got a problem.
A couple of years ago, a residents’ allocation of free tickets for the Red Bull Air Race were not handed out directly to the public – as organisers had intended – but given to residents’ organisations first. If you don’t live in an area that’s covered by one, you’re effectively disenfranchised. And if your nearest residents’ organisation won’t allow you to join because you live a few yards outside their territory, then you’ve a bigger problem.
Over at The Greenwich Phantom, commenter Valley Girl said of her own road: “The gutters have not been swept in so many weeks that there’s foot high weeds growing in the mud that’s accumulated. They used to be swept regularly every Tuesday morning, but I no longer see anyone doing the job.”
And you know what? She’s right. Eversley Road (the top two photographs) has been left looking a mess. And the weeds are breaking out all over neighbouring streets. In Tallis Grove, Charlton (below) and Farmdale Road, Greenwich (above), they look set to take over. The weeds are a living, breathing example of Greenwich Council’s neglect of our streets. And without a friendly residents’ association to work through, none of these streets photographed will get any help whatsoever.
And even some of the council’s more hard-working and diligent souls don’t seem to understand how their assumptions about how people live can be part of the problem and not part of the solution. Peninsula ward councillor Mary Mills, who represents the northern end of my street, read my post last week about the council dumping wheelie bins in the street and commented: “Note blogger 853 moaning about people leaving their bins on the pavement – round here people take them in for neighbours who are out!” It’s nice to know she lives in a place where people are in all day – unfortunately, in a street where most of the houses are divided into flats occupied by people who are working all day, that just isn’t going to happen.
Yes, local residents have their part to play. But they pay a tax to the council to provide a service – and when the council doesn’t provide that service, or communicate with individuals honestly and effectively, they shouldn’t have to fill the breach themselves. These things should be a partnership – and it’s about time the council pulled its finger out and fulfilled its part of the bargain.
(All the photos here were taken between 4pm and 5.30pm on Monday 22 June.)