Pile of bin bags with a cat in the background, Argyle Street, Bloomsbury, Camden

‘Streets Paved with Rubbish’

Press coverage of Camden’s filth problem ramps up.

The Camden New Journal have reported on the state of Camden’s streets this week, which they say have been labelled the ‘filthiest in the country’.

Recently released statistics from the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have shown that Camden has the second highest number of reports for fly tipping in the United Kingdom, after Leeds.

The leader of the opposition Oliver Cooper has claimed that given that Camden is geographically smaller as a borough than Leeds, our streets are the filthiest in the country.

Coupled with our research that shows that a large number of reports are not properly actioned, the reported levels of filth on Camden’s streets are unprecedented.

The figures are however only an indication of the levels of fly-tipping, as they have not been adjusted to account for the differences in the ease of reporting throughout the country.

The statistical effect of supplying a simple method to report fly tipping will be to artificially increase the level of reports against other Boroughs. It is therefore likely that the levels of fly tipping are overrepresented in the report as compared to other Boroughs.

It still indicates however that Camden is one of the worst affected places in the country for fly tipping.

Councillor Cooper is expected to demand a change to the full council in the way Camden runs its street cleansing and waste disposal operations, saying that ‘roads from Camden High Street to West End Lane are permanently strewn with rubbish‘. He is taking an interest in the levels of deductions made to Veolia’s payment, given that this report indicates Veolia are underperforming.

It has been a bad week for Camden Council with a further two letters in the Camden New Journal demanding change in the wake of the ITV report on DEFRA’s statistics.

David Reed from NW3 states that he was ‘appalled’ to see Camden reported as having a serious fly tipping problem.

He highlighted the point that a contributor to the problem is actually Veolia themselves, as they routinely leave rubbish bins in the street in all parts of the borough, which go on to attract littering, and fly tipping, mentioning the widespread problem that Camden has with dumped mattresses.

He also pointed out the fact that in response to bins overflowing due to infrequent and missed collections on the part of Veolia, Camden have decided to resolve the problem by simply removing the bins altogether.

This has been occurring all over the Borough in an effort to combat fly tipping, as Camden believes the presence of bins to encourage fly tipping.

Another letter asked the question if Camden Town is the filthiest place in London.

The letter claimed the pavements are full of rubbish bags which make it hard to walk. It claims that reports have been made to Camden but to no avail.

It also highlights the point that the new Town Hall is situated on private land which is maintained by a private company rather than at public expense, pointing out that Camden councillors can live in their own ‘bubble’ of cleanliness.

Oliver Cooper also wrote a letter to criticise Camden Council’s efforts to further reduce spending on core services such as street cleansing.

A further letter criticised Camden’s decision to allow streets to become blocked and cluttered by hire cycles.

The BBC has also covered the astonishing rise in the number of reports of fly-tipping in Camden, pointing out that reports have doubled over the course of a year.

A spokeswoman for Camden told the BBC that this was due to the increased use of Clean Camden.

A spokesman for Camden told the Camden New Journal the same thing this week.

What is the Truth of This?

Camden has a problem with fly tipping and dirty streets. It is safe to say that if this were not true, then you would not be reading this.

However Camden’s advertisement of the Clean Camden app has certainly caused an inflation in the number of reports over the past year. If there is an easy option to report fly tipping incidents then naturally the number of reports per incident will rise. Simply put, the statistics do not show the number of fly tipping incidents, but the number of fly tipping reports, and this distinction is one that has been conveniently brushed aside in the press.

However Camden’s stance that the explosion in reports over the past year is simply due to increased use of Clean Camden is untenable, because the previous year Clean Camden was still available for use and statistics suggest that the usage has actually decreased since then.

Our Freedom of Information requests will settle the question once and for all.

It is easy enough, however, to simply blindly criticise a local authority on the basis of statistics. Any person can see the problems, but it is far more difficult to find a solution.

Part of the problem is that there is little appetite within the Council to admit to the problems, never mind find a way to address them. Keep Britain Tidy’s surveys apparently show an increase in cleanliness, and Camden Council are currently happy to blindly hold up this shred of evidence in the wake of mounting evidence of a public filth crisis.

We can only hope that faced with this public outrage Camden Council can finally admit to there being a real problem and seek to find and address the root causes.

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