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26. June 2013

Better Outcomes

Cleaner Streets through Better Collaboration between a Parish and District Council in Lincolnshire

Her name is Joy and she is!

The starting point: resident complaints about littering in local hot-spots

Cherry Willingham is a picturesque village with over 4000 inhabitants three miles east of Lincoln and is still growing, largely as a commuter village for Lincoln. However, for some time local residents had been feeling more and more unhappy about the level of litter in their village. As a result, the Parish Council was receiving increasing complaints especially about the amount of litter on the stretch of road between two local schools and around the area of the shops.

Why litter picking by volunteers was not possible anymore

Previously the Community School had undertaken initiatives to clear litter from the area around their school but it had stopped this following a new health and safety policy. The Parish Council decided to employ a litter picker for a couple of hours a week, which worked very well in this very small area but led to questions from residents not covered by the scheme. However, the cost of staff to undertake such work over the whole village would have been prohibitive.

Why the match-funding scheme of West Lindsey District Council did not work first

Around 2010 West Lindsey District Council, in which Cherry Willingham Parish lies, started a co-operation scheme with local Parish Councils to supplement the cost of local litter pickers. This involved West Lindsey match-funding the hours paid for by the parish. This worked for the District Council because it stopped wasted travelling time by its staff and increased its own profile in the area. However, it did involve the collection of dog waste and litter bins, in addition to the work which the local litter pickers would normally undertake. 

The Cherry Willingham Parish Council refused to be involved in the scheme because they felt the collection of dog waste and emptying of litter bins was a service which should be provided as a core service by the District Council, that it would cost too much money which the parish would have to raise by levying more on the precept (which is the local property-based tax) and that they would be left to pick up the bills when the scheme failed. In brief, the Parish Council felt very suspicious about the motives of West Lindsey District Council.

How a more flexible litter-picking scheme was negotiated 

At the time, the Parish Council was inclined to be reactive and reluctant to take on extra work. However, the proactive Councillors bided their time and waited for the inevitable 'churn' (which meant a new Chair and a few more positive people in the Parish Council). At this point, in autumn 2011, the subject was broached again. This involved a lot of negotiation with the District Council to gain reassurance on several issues. No West Lindsey DC jobs would be put at risk, no extra costs would be involved and the District Council had to give a guarantee that it would not pull out and leave the Parish Council with an outlay it could not afford.

All these issues were overcome by talking them through, one step at a time. An arrangement with a local farmer to leave the commercial bins in his yard for collection by the District Council solved the storage issues. The District Council agreed to continue litter picking on the main roads and to empty outlying bins which were too dangerous or out of the way for the parish litter picker to deal with - and they also agreed to cover for holidays. An approach was made to the litter picker and she was delighted with the offer of extra hours and had no objections to adding dog waste removal to her job description. West Lindsey DC also provided all the necessary equipment and some Health and Safety training.

An arrangement with the local newsagent for his newspaper boys to litter pick the green on a Sunday meant the area was cleaned after the normal Saturday night take-aways (and the boys earned a little extra money). With these agreements, a six month trial took place in spring 2012, which was hugely successful it has now been extended indefinitely but the Parish Council still has the assurance that, with proper notice on both sides, the arrangement can be terminated.

Why Joy delivers better results for Cherry Willingham Parish Council

In the greater scheme of things, the outlay for the work is minor.  Cherry Willingham Parish Council and West Lindsey District Council pay just under £400 per month each and CWPC pay £45 every three months to the newsagent.  This actually involved nil extra cost to West Lindsey District Council, as its costs are covered from savings through its street cleansing team being released for other work and vehicle maintenance, lower petrol costs, etc. Cherry Willingham Parish Council raises its contribution to the costs through the precept, and residents feel that paying this small extra amount in local tax is good value. 

Consequently, the village now has a litter picker who works every day on set routes (and, with the Parish Council's agreement, increased hours in the summer months). Residents now have a much tidier village. Moreover, Joy, the litter picker, has become the eyes and ears of the Parish Council, reporting problems with street signs, broken bins and graffiti. She is a part-time employee of the Parish Council and, because she is local, is concerned about the village and can literally step out of her door and start work. She wears corporate clothing, which advertises her role and promotes West Lindsey DC, and she has become well-known on her rounds. She is, of course, fully trained and, because of her adaptability and sunny nature, is well liked around the area.

As a result, resident complaints about litter have fallen and the Parish Council is now talking about getting the schools involved in a litter picking event lead by the church leaders. It has also found that general issues are being picked up and reported much more quickly than before, so it doesn't have to wait until the next committee meeting to get action.

This guest blog was written by Anne Welburn, Councillor of Cherry Willingham Parish Council.                                                                                          


Cllr Anne Welburn

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