Clean Camden is an application available on mobile platforms, and there is also an online version, which allows you to report cleanliness issues by taking photos and using geolocation.
If Veolia exceed response times on reports you make, they are automatically deducted sums of money from their payment. The response times and sums vary and we will soon be publishing exact details.
There have been problems with malpractice reported that are currently being investigated.
It has been found that Veolia are in some instances falsely marking reports as completed to avoid deductions. You should be aware of this when making your reports.
In the vast majority of instances, reports are properly actioned.
It is still worth taking up Clean Camden during this time of uncertainty because as statistics mount up Veolia will be forced to increase resources in your area. Thus usage of Clean Camden has both short and long term positive effects, and is the only way that you will see a change in cleanliness.
A guide is written here for using Clean Camden, informed by the experience of Camden officers. It is written to help you avoid making common errors which will allow Veolia to avoid completing your report.
Using Clean Camden
1) Set up your account
Setting up your account can be frustrating and it may take up to a day for your confirmation email to come through. This won’t stop you making reports but you will be unable to properly follow them up until your account is confirmed. When your account is confirmed, it is time to open the app and get going.
2) Locate the problem
The app will find your location by GPS and put you on the map. However, bear in mind that this is not always perfectly accurate, and also that you may be standing a few metres away from the issue itself. Move the icon to the exact position of the problem.
The reason for this is that it is all too easy for Veolia operatives to claim that they couldn’t find the reported issue. If your report wasn’t accurate enough, this is an easy way to close your report, and they will avoid any sort of deduction from their payment. Don’t let this happen.
3) Take three photos
You will then be given the option to take a maximum of three photos. Use all three wisely.
You ideally want to get a photo of the problem which also captures markers that will help Veolia to locate it. For example, if you are taking a photo of some graffiti on a postbox, do not just zoom right in on the graffiti so that the images you take are graffiti on a red background. It will potentially be difficult for Veolia to locate this, and you want to make it easy for them. Get a photo of the graffitied postbox up close to identify the problem but also step back and get a photo of the letterbox with, say, a street sign in the background. Consider taking a photo from two different directions. You should make it absolutely as easy as possible to locate.
If the photo is of a littered road, you need to make sure you get as much litter in the photo as possible. Don’t be afraid to kick bits of litter into a pile to make for a good photo. You need to emphasise the issue to Veolia so that they can see that it needs action.
4) Describe the problem
You will be given an option to describe the cleanliness issue, and to choose a category.
Describe the issue briefly, but also describe the location. GPS can often give a silly address, especially in Central London. Try to look for an address, so that you can say something along the lines of ‘litter in the road immediately outside the entrance to Queen Alexandra Mansions on Judd Street’.
Again, make sure that there is no wiggle room for Veolia to get out of doing the job.
5) Send off your report, and check back on it.
Send off the report, and check the app to see what is going on.
The app is outdated and doesn’t give proper updates. The website is better and if your account is linked properly you will be able to sign in online. The website report will give a ‘job code’ along with an indication of whether the job is complete, in progress, or closed without completion.
Nine times out of ten the issue will be resolved within a suitable time frame and to a suitable standard. If it isn’t, then you should update the report. You can add a further update to your report, with the option to take further photos.
Veolia, beyond being fined for exceeding response times, are often fined a substantially larger amount if a second report is made, and they exceed the response time again on the second report. The second response time is often substantially shorter. Thus, don’t give up on your report if it is ignored – just keep reporting whatever happens, as it will be having an effect.
If you go on to make a complaint to Camden or Veolia, the first thing you will be asked is if you have made a report on Clean Camden – it is vital that this is done.
6) Get in contact with us.
There are sometimes occasions where Veolia will repeatedly mark things as completed when they are not. This can be frustrating, but there is usually some reason behind it. Veolia and Camden are working on updating the system so that explanations can be communicated.
If you get in contact with us, we will be able to properly advise on the issue and put you through to the right person at Camden to get it resolved.
You can also try contacting the general enquiries email address at Camden, but we will most likely be a quicker route to getting the issue resolved.
Get your Neighbourhood Cleaned Up
Clean Camden is useful for getting individual issues resolved on a case by case basis.
Over time, however, we often find that a road gets into a sorry state with plenty of fly posting and stickers on street furniture and the like. When your neighbourhood gets like this, it is best to take your Clean Camden usage to the next level, and meticulously report every issue.
This method is very effective – but does have its drawbacks. You will have to keep a close eye on all your reports to make sure they are properly actioned.
The idea is to go out on a walk and report every single problem that you see. Veolia can be tasked to deal with litter, stickers, graffiti, overflowing bins, and fly tips.
It is important to note that Veolia being hired by Camden will only respond to reports related to public land and property. So stickers on a lamppost will be removed, but stickers on your front door won’t.
Veolia are already paid to be at the ready to do this work – using Clean Camden to its limit is getting value for the tax you pay.
It is also satisfying to see the online map balloon in your neighbourhood, knowing that Veolia bureaucrats will be sitting at their desks with eyes watering wondering what is happening!
The next day, or even the same day, you will see an increased presence of Veolia operatives and machines – indeed, you may even see sweepers usually renowned for dossing in the local area with sweaty brows sweeping the streets to excess, even through the night. One of the great success stories of Save Bloomsbury is the reform of a sweeper, well documented on this site and well known to long time followers, who was known for spending all his time sitting around smoking and playing Candy Crush.
The above photo shows how we always saw the man in the area back in July 2019. The below photos show how we found him the morning after our Clean Camden blitz of the area, in October 2019.
The green bags are the bags that he had already filled by lunchtime. Astounding!
This method though, like any, does have its drawbacks.
When Veolia employees are suddenly tasked with a huge workload out of the blue, they will naturally look for corners to cut, and some jobs will be marked as completed when they are not.
To get the best results, you need to check back to make sure that every job marked as done is indeed done.
You may also be disappointed at the sticker removal team’s work. They often, in the course of removing stickers, remove paintwork.
Inevitably, there are also grey areas which Veolia will refuse to touch. This is a particularly irritating part of battling litter. There are many arbitrary borders beyond which will be contracted to a different company, or contracted to Veolia in a different way. Again, Veolia looking for a way out of any job, will often close these jobs without doing them. To resolve these will most likely require the involvement of your local SAMO (Monitoring Officer). You can get in touch with us to get you in touch with them.
You can also of course, for those small problem areas, just clean it up yourself. That is often the easiest way. Many residents feel it is below their worth to go out and clean up litter themselves, especially given that their tax pays for such work to be done. That is true – but it usually ends up being more time consuming to do the bureaucratic work to get it actioned than it would be just to do it yourself. Keep that in mind when pursuing complaints about problems that can be potentially solved yourself.
Camden have their own monitoring system, but it is stretched thin. It is simply impossible for them to monitor every road properly.
If every resident of Bloomsbury, however, monitored just their own road using Clean Camden, Veolia would be forced to work hard to keep the whole district clean.
To reiterate the usefulness of Clean Camden, Camden’s own SAMOs actually use a more sophisticated version of the app to report issues for action from Veolia. By using Clean Camden regularly, you essentially become an unofficial SAMO.
So as you walk around Bloomsbury, keep Clean Camden handy, and make a report of any cleanliness issues that you see, safe in the knowledge that Veolia are tasked to respond, and if they don’t, you get your money back.
The Post Script: Realistic Expectations
You should expect to get out of this method the amount of effort that you put in, and if you take up Clean Camden for a week, then put it down for a year, don’t get irritated when your road drops to a low standard again.
Yes, indeed, it should be the case that Veolia will just sweep your road regardless of local monitoring. But if you read this analysis you will see why that is an unrealistic expectation.
The most clean areas in Camden are clean because the residents care that the area is kept clean. They use Clean Camden, they are vocal with their councillors, they know their local SAMO, and take offence at a single banana skin on a roadside.
The harsh reality is that if you don’t really care enough about the area, then there is no motivation for anyone to keep your area clean. The residents themselves are the ones that provide the motivation, and this website is meant to direct that motivation to proper ends.
The most sure way, and indeed the easiest way for Bloomsbury to be rid of its litter problem, is if a single resident on each road becomes one of these volunteer SAMOs. That way, with no problem going unnoticed, things can be resolved quickly, efficiently, and easily.
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