THE number of environmental wardens patrolling the Capital has dropped to a three-year low, despite mounting concern over the state of the streets.
Figures show that while warden numbers in areas including the city centre and north Edinburgh have been steady, there have been falls in the south, west and east.
Residents and community leaders today voiced concern at the reduction and warned it would lead to a “dilution” in cleanliness enforcement.
City council leaders have blamed budget cutbacks.
Jim Henry, who chairs Liberton and District Community Council, said: “I suspect there will be concern about this just because of the fact there’s a dilution of service.
“Issues like fly-tipping and dog fouling are perennial ones – it’s the same everywhere. The more people you have out and about, the more pairs of eyes you have and, hopefully, they can take some action.
“But, like everything, it’s a case of them having to cut their cloth and if they feel our area isn’t as bad as others, that may be why [there has been a drop].”
According to new data, there are currently 38.5 full-time equivalent warden posts at the city council, one fewer than in 2014-15 and down on 2010-11, when there were 44.
City leaders have also confirmed that the Edinburgh Wardens pilot – which saw up to 10 additional cleanliness staff taken on in 2013 – has been discontinued.
Pip Wallen-Priestley, 59, who was nominated for the Neighbour of the Year award after locals noticed his dedication to fighting litter on Leith Links, said: “The fact is that they are cutting back the service, but, at the same time, the rubbish is increasing.
“There are just not enough wardens on the beat – there’s not enough presence.”
News of the decrease comes after the Evening News revealed how wardens here are issuing only a tenth of the fines handed out in Glasgow. The number of £80 penalties for dropping litter has plummeted to just over a third of the level of 2013-14.
City bosses said they were aware of public worries over rubbish, adding that they were considering a range of additional measures – including plain-clothes wardens – in a bid to crack down on litter louts and lazy dog owners.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment leader, said: “Our environmental wardens do a fantastic job tackling problems like littering and dog fouling and this is reflected in a recent assessment which shows that street cleanliness is improving.
“Budget restraints have had an impact on the number of wardens in Edinburgh so we are looking at more efficient ways to ensure that levels of cleanliness continue to improve.”
She added: “We are also developing additional enforcement measures to crack down on people who drop litter and fail to clear up after their dogs. This selfish behaviour continues to be a blight and addressing this is a key priority.”