Sheffield street cleaning standards 'will still be high' despite cuts, council insists

Street cleaning services are to be cut in Sheffield.
Street cleaning services are to be cut in Sheffield.
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Council bosses have promised to maintain Sheffield's street cleaning standards despite cuts to the service.

Councillors used a scrutiny meeting this morning to question the impact of changes to the Streets Ahead contract, designed to save £12 million over the next 20 years.

Coun Rob Murphy.

Coun Rob Murphy.

Among the proposals are to reduce the frequency of cleaning in residential areas and replace manual litter pickers with street sweeping machines in areas such as the city centre.

New technology such as bins with sensors will be introduced.

The council also wants to get rid of the bulk of the city's 200,000 sq m of roadside shrub beds, which it says are used to hide crime and drug use.

And grass verges on 'high-profile' routes such as Derek Dooley Way will be cut less frequently. Some will be planted with wildflowers.

Coun Abdul Khayum

Coun Abdul Khayum

The plans were called in for further scrutiny by coun Rob Murphy, who said there should have been 'proper public consultation'.

The council said there were no complaints about excess litter during unannounced trials of the new street cleaning programme late last year - and the idea was to do it 'blind' so people weren't looking for changes.

But coun Murphy said that was not an 'appropriate' way to assess the impact - a point echoed by Brian Holmshaw from the Norfolk Park litter picking group.

Coun Murphy also questioned the effect of removing shrubs on air and noise pollution.

Coun Bryan Lodge

Coun Bryan Lodge

There was some confusion about what exactly was being removed - in part due to the wording of the report into the changes - but assistant head of highways Phil Beacroft said it would be beds within grass verges that were overgrown with plants such as roses, rather than rural hedgerows.

Coun Ian Auckland highlighted the need for the council to work constructively with the city's many voluntary litter pickers, and avoid the impression they were having to make up for the services being cut.

"Wouldn't you agree that it's important that people see the council is trying to get the balance right?" he asked.

Coun Paul Wood the proposals were cuts, not savings, and asked if businesses could be forced to pay a street cleaning levy.

And coun Abdul Khayum said any reduction in service would have an impact on people, and some areas - such as his Firth Park ward - would suffer more than others.

He suggested more work was done with communities - 'particularly around contributing to reducing the problem at source'.

Questions were also raised about the ability of street sweeping machines to effectively clean in tight areas.

Cabinet member for environment Bryan Lodge agreed that more could be done to change people's attitudes to dropping litter and encouraging them to have more pride in Sheffield.

He promised standards of cleanliness would not drop, but admitted that the changes might mean it took longer for litter to be picked up.

And by changing working practices, coun Lodge said savings could be made without people noticing much difference.

The committee asked for a chance to scrutinise the changes after a year of operation.