A Newcastle upon Tyne MP has warned an increase in the city’s litter and fly-tipping is causing social divisions, as the cash-strapped council cuts back on its waste services.
Chi Onwurah, left, who represents Newcastle Central for Labour and is also a shadow cabinet minister, said a combination of fortnightly bin collections, reductions in the number of street wardens, extended routes for street cleaning and pressures on the council’s response service, had help create a litter problem.
She said that as a result her constituents complain about fly-tipping and overflowing bins, and increasingly associate the problems with different ethnic groups.
Newcastle City Council’s weekly bin collections were scrapped in 2012 and its street cleaning teams cut back as part of efforts to save £90m.
Onwurah, who is Newcastle’s first black MP, told MRW: “Two weekly bin collections are fine when people follow the rules but when bins are left out continuously then they get overflow and not only look ugly but are a target for people looking for food or to steal identities. Littered streets and lanes also tend to attract fly-tippers who see it as a green light.
“It causes division and whilst I am working with the police and the council to address antisocial behaviour whatever its origins, better waste management would certainly decrease tensions.
“At my surgeries housing, benefits and visas are the top issues. But out on the doorstep, when I go to people rather than waiting for them to come to me, rubbish, litter, fly-tipping, jobs and immigration come up most.”
A council spokesman said: “We are seeing an increase in fly-tipping as a result of people trying to avoid paying to dispose of waste legally.
“Dropping litter and failing to dispose of waste is antisocial and is something we are trying to tackle by encouraging people to change their behaviour and act responsibly.”
Newcastle City Council’s leader Nick Forbes recently warned in a Guardian newspaper article that the authority was facing “impossible cuts” that would threaten public services.
Tim Burns, evidence and policy manager at Keep Britain Tidy, said schemes to improve local environments can help different social groups come together.
Data from Keep Britain Tidy’s most recent local environmental quality survey, which is commissioned by Defra, has revealed a connection between littering and average local income.
Burns said: “What it found was that litter was much more prevalent in more deprived neighbourhoods and where the risk of crime was much higher. We don’t know if more litter is being dropped, or if local authorities might not be prioritising as much as they should.
“There is some evidence that certain demographic groups are more likely to litter than others, but it depends on what’s being littered. Cigarette and vehicle tends to be across the board, whereas with things like fast food or drinks cans research we have done points to a younger demographic.
“Litter breeds litter - poor environments that look run down tend to have an impact on people’s behaviour in terms of how they treat those environments.
“There’s a fantastic scheme in Lambeth called Community Freshview that helps residents groups clean up and make their street look better. It brings the community together, who often come from different social groups, and shows the environment is cared for.”