After attending the tribunal, I returned home to find an invitation.
I was not fool enough to refuse a meeting from the Council. I decided to put off filing my application, and arrange a meeting with the officers. Perhaps it would come to something good after all.
Walking back from The City, I was again quite shocked at the state of our streets compared to there.
I was careful to be as reasonable as possible.
We arranged a meeting on 25 July – the hottest day of the year, and almost a month since my first email. I met with Ian Dudding and Richard Bradbury, environmental officers. We toured the area, sighting some of the worst areas, trying to hide in the shade from the desertlike heat.
We talked much about the situation. They told me that it was unreasonable to expect a street cleaner on the corner of every street at every time – which I of course had never expected. They told me that it would not really be possible to take them to court. Seeing that their job was to try and suppress me, I diverted the conversation to other topics.
We talked about long term solutions to the problems. We talked of the causes of the issues, and the wider issues in London and Bloomsbury. We found much common ground on that day, and I believe all left in good spirits, understanding one another. We talked about how we could bring long term improvements to Bloomsbury, converting tree pits into flower beds, installing heritage street lighting and benches, and discussed possible sources of funding for these ventures. The idea was that by improving the visual nature of the streets, people would be less likely to litter, and make the problem more manageable for the Council.
We left agreeing that I would continue to engage with the community, and they would supply me with further contacts in the community, and also enquire into sources of funding earmarked for the area of Bloomsbury.
I believed that this would come to something good, and left these officers some time to carry out their enquiries.
I then went away for a few weeks, and left the officers time to restore the streets, and make their enquiries.
I returned on 10/08/2019. I drove down from Birmingham, passing through many of the most littered roads and motorways in the country. I had not made contact with anyone in London for all of fifteen days. I saw these filthy motorways and it gave me some perspective – I thought that at least Bloomsbury was not like that! I expected that they had had time to put things right anyway, and that the streets would be clean and tidy. Perhaps they had already started work to clear up the street clutter. Perhaps.
But of course, I came back to this.
How could the streets be like this after everything? Through my whole journey, the most littered area was actually Bloomsbury!
At this point it became clear. The Council had absolutely no intention to do anything to maintain our streets, despite their duty to do so. All the emails I had sent had been ignored. The officers had mislead me into thinking they would actually do something to resolve the situation.
The way the Council had treated me disgusted me, and others. All they wished to do was try to ignore me, lie to me, and carry on disrespecting our streets.
When I got home, I had also received a letter from our MP Keir Starmer. I had mentioned to him the problems of litter in Bloomsbury, hoping he would be able to do something. In fact, Camden had made out to him that I no longer held any complaint and that everything had been resolved. That we had discussed ‘quick fixes’ that would be put in place to maintain the level of cleanliness in our area. Evidently, that was false. Nothing was fixed, and nothing was quick. In fact, I had received an email from Camden letting me know that I should research community groups, rather than they – despite them actually holding a register of community groups.
In short, they would do nothing, and I would have to do everything – to help them fulfil a duty, which they were supposed to fill anyway… by law?
At this point I realised fully my situation. They intended simply to play dirty just to try and stop me doing anything. To avoid having to do anything that they were supposed to do. All the Council wanted to do was get on with their silly vanity projects, and avoid doing any of the things that they actually exist to do!
I immediately shot off emails to the MP, to various litter charities, and the officers again, to let them know of my disappointment. Their responses to this was the last that I have heard.
I made the same point again and again. That no further investment was needed to solve the problem.
Street cleaners do not visit often enough, and do not do a good enough job. Make the street cleaners you do have actually do their job. Then we might have clean streets, as is required by law.
18/08/2019 – A Sunday. I got up, looked out the window, and saw that still – yes still, two months since my first email, the streets were defaced by litter.
I put on some gloves, and with a friend, went out into the street to do the work ourselves.
Many of you will have seen those traffic diversion signs that have been on the pavement since last Christmas, before Judd St was closed off in January. Now they are gone. Because of the Council? No – because of us.
I went to the bin on my road where bags had been dumped, and picked those up and took them to the Council House.
I turned around and was about the do the same to all the bins when I saw something that my eyes could simply not behold without wonder – a street cleaner, on a Sunday? Yes indeed Ladies and Gentlemen, a street cleaner outside my home, on Bidborough Street, with his trailer and all, standing, and picking his nose.
I was quite astonished. I snooped around the area – indeed, yes, the roads were a little cleaner than usual! Perhaps something had changed. My friend went over to him to congratulate him on his good work. He suddenly looked up at us, surprised at such praise, said ‘thanks mate’, and rejuvenated by our good words, vigorously swept some leaves on the road and put them in his trolley.
He then went over to chat to someone at the Dolphin.
Meanwhile, we had had a change of plan. Forget cleaning the streets. We would become the monitoring officers. We would watch this man. How would he behave, what would he do? What would he clean, and what would he not. All was unanswered, and just waiting to be discovered.
The rolling of the wheels commenced. I had my camera at the ready. He moved from his spot down the road, and I immediately started snapping photos.
As we watched, it became clear to us that he had little intention to pick up litter. The rolling kept on going, and we actually struggled to keep up with him. In fact, since his vigorous leaf sweep, we didn’t see him pick up anything substantial again.
Yes indeed, all these photos were taken together – you can check here for the complete record, complete with annotated map. We simply followed, and took photos of the litter left behind. Indeed it is comical, but reflect – this man is paid by taxes to keep our roads clean. So are many others. There are officers whose job it is to monitor their performance. WE ALL PAY FOR THESE JOBS.
On and on he went, all through the most affected areas, seemingly unaware that actually he was supposed to be cleaning. As I had said to officers, right from the beginning, the street cleaners were not doing a good enough job. We were paying for our streets to be cleaned, but in fact, nobody was doing the job.
The following photos were all taken in chronological order, following the footsteps of our street cleaner, whom we all pay to clean our streets.
Eventually I think he realised our game and took off quite quickly. I actually had to run to catch him. But nonetheless, our work had been done, and in the proceedings, I had actually come across another street cleaner!
I caught up with our friend to get a last few snaps of his activities. I suppose he just didn’t realise that leaves are supposed to be swept.
Oh wait – that was the only thing he did sweep. Wait – what is a broom for anyway? I don’t know, I’m going to the pub.
The one consolation of our failing government is that they are failing so terribly, it actually becomes laughable.
But on a serious note, we are all paying for this comedy, or rather, tragedy. I compiled a map of litter sites showing the trail our friend took.
The numbers show litter sites, not individual pieces of litter. The bits of litter number much more. How can this be after a cleaner visited the area within seconds?
And beyond this, why is the cleaner taking such an odd route anyway? He isn’t networking through the streets methodically, he’s just aimlessly walking through the ward, not doing much in the way of cleaning.
So now ask yourself again the question – is it inevitable that our streets have to be filthy? Is it really true the story the Council paints, the story of the Council working hard, stretched to the limit, to battle all those evil tourists that are dumping litter as soon as a cleaner sweeps it up?
Is it really true that we need a ‘multi-stakeholder approach’ to solve this problem, to change the attitudes and mindset of the public?
Is it really true that we need investment in the area, the infrastructure, the furniture, to get littering within manageable levels?
Or is this really the case – the Council’s function is to take our money, and spend it in lying to us about what we can have, whilst spending millions on ridiculous things, like converting our Town Hall into a party building.
The street cleaners don’t clean. Why is that? The monitoring officers don’t monitor. Why is that? The councillors don’t care what residents think. Nobody in the Council has done anything to fix this problem. They weave a web of lies to make us believe that our concerns are unfounded, that we are expecting unreasonable things, that to solve our problems they need money, but that they don’t have any money. That’s why they sell our public assets. That’s why they allow a massive ‘crown’ on top of a building directly opposite St Pancras, which residents campaigned to be knocked down, in sight of multiple conservation areas. That’s why they don’t do anything to invest in our communities. That’s why they approve a 60% increase in their own salaries. That’s why they approve planning and funding for a bloody automatic exterior venetian blind on one of the Town Hall’s windows that looks into their chambers, whilst they can’t even put a few more bins on our roads!
Our Council is backwards, self serving, and corrupt. It is time to change this.