Sheffield residents have today been urged to do their bit to keep the city clean – as the council announced possible cuts to street cleaning.
A proposal to save £12 million over the next 20 years by reducing the frequency of cleaning in residential areas is set to be approved by councillors.
Manual litter picks in areas including the city centre could also be replaced by street sweeping machines – and people have been warned to expect dirtier streets.
The council insists Sheffield’s service will still be better than that of most other UK cities.
But campaigner Jenny Carpenter, co-chairman of Sheffield Climate Alliance, has called for residents to play their part.
“The emphasis should be on persuading the public not to drop litter in the first place,” she said.
“My particular hate as a regular litter picker is those blue plastic forks from fast food outlets – especially when broken into tiny pieces.
“We need to rethink packaging of hot fast food and insist that extras like tomato ketchup are put on to the food at the point of purchase. Who wants ketchup smeared on the pavements?
“There is now talk of bringing back returnable bottles with a small reclaimable deposit – this would help a lot.”
The council wants to change the terms of the Streets Ahead contract with Amey to reduce the number of ‘cleanses’ in residential areas of the city from four a year to three, according to a proposal that will be considered by the cabinet.
It also wants to increase the response time to complaints of fly-tipping from one business day to two.
And the authority has proposed replacing manual collections in the city centre and in hotspots such as shopping streets with street cleaning machines – which could lead to a drop in standards in some areas.
It is hoped the changes – which also include the introduction of ‘smart bins’ which sense how full they are and report back – will save about £600,000 per year for the remaining 20 years of the Streets Ahead contract, or £12 million.
On the council’s proposals to reduce the number of ‘cleanses’ in residential areas, Jenny said it was ‘regrettable’. “Even now there are numerous small scrub areas which are smelly and dangerous for months," she said.
“My experience of Streets Ahead is that they do their best to clear litter bins daily in areas where there are fast food outlets. This is vital.
“Even those people who are prepared to dispose of litter properly will not do so if the litter bins are overflowing.”
Jenny picks up litter around Upperthorpe Road daily, and also organises picks in Crookesmoor every month.
She urged the council to provide more equipment and bin bags to help keep the streets clean.
The council does highlight the need for people to pick up after themselves.
It says the current ‘gold plated’ street clearning service is among the best in the country – and it would still be very good even with the proposed cuts – but is currently not affordable.
The authority says during several trials of the reduced service the public ‘did not notice the difference’.
Some street cleaning jobs would be lost as a result of the changes, although the council has not said how many.
A report to cabinet says: “It is likely that residents will notice an increase in litter in residential areas due to the lower cleansing frequency and the fact that reaction times for removing reported litter will be relaxed which could result in litter being left on the highway for longer periods.”
The council says it is able to alter the contract because the proposals are not ‘a material change’.
Director of culture and environment Paul Billington said: “If agreed, the proposal will enable the council to make long-term financial savings throughout its 25-year Streets Ahead contract while helping protect critical services such as adult social care and ensuring Sheffield’s standard of street cleaning and grounds maintenance remain high and comparable with other large UK cities.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group Coun Shaffaq Mohammed opposed the cuts.
He said: “The Labour council may not think so but litter is still an issue in this city.
“The Lib Dems would make street cleaning a priority, as we showed in our budget earlier this year, rather than rolling back a much-needed service.
“It’s also very concerning that the council are trying to sneak out these major changes over summer and in private, rather than out in the open at a public cabinet meeting.”