That’s the challenge I ended up setting Contact Islington during 2009, with the following reports of incidents:
- 223 reports of graffiti
- 154 reports of dumped rubbish from private individuals
- 76 reports of dumped rubbish from the corporate sector (e.g. abandoned materials after road works)
- 18 broken street lights
- 44 other issues
The vast majority have been handled efficiently and got right first time, for which praise is due. The volume of reports has also dropped through the year, suggesting a genuine and sustained improvement in the parts of the borough which I pass through frequently. It has also been good to see that whilst removing much graffiti, Islington Council has left that such as the Banksy on Archway Road untouched. That is something Hackney Council could learn from.
It’s a less good picture when either something goes wrong or there is a complication, such as it not being clear whose responsibility resolving an issue is. There are some very good officers at Islington Council who, when they get involved, work miracles (Tim Troon deserves particular praise). But it can be an almighty struggle to get problematic issues escalated to the point where one of these good officers steps in to sort out matters.
Islington & Shoreditch Housing Association’s ability to turn repairing one broken bollard into a months long saga handled by staff who seemed woefully uninterested in the failures to repair or reply to queries was certainly the low spot. Hopefully, the final promises from a manger that they would be having words has resulted in improvements.
What has struck me through the year (and was one of the reasons for keeping a count) is just how many of the incidents of dumped rubbish are the fault of firms – often contractors working on behalf of either the public sector or a heavily regulated utility. It’s up for debate how typical the areas I pass through regularly are of other urban areas or the country as a whole, but the total number of incidents of dumped rubbish I’ve reported are enough to draw some conclusion.
At least in my part of Islington, it’s the corporate and public sectors which are responsible for around a third of all incidents of dumped rubbish, by which I included items such as leaving plastic barriers abandoned on the pavement after carrying out repair works.
Leaving material dumped behind you is pretty anti-social behaviour, yet in all the talk about tackling anti-social behaviour nearly all the attention is given to private individuals. Apart from the notable exception of Camden Council threatening the people behind a flyposting firm with ASBOs, the usual assumption is that tacking anti-social behaviour requires action against individuals.
But perhaps a little more attention should be given to how firms behave in public spaces too?