Council panned over bins, dog mess, and dirty streets

Grubby streets soiled with dog mess have been slated in an annual survey measuring attitudes towards the city council.

Wednesday, 18th March 2015, 11:23 am
Many are unhappy with the council's waste collection services. Picture: Greg Macvean

Residents in more than half of the council’s ward areas listed failure to deal with dog mess as their number-one gripe in the Edinburgh People Survey 2014

Critics said the Capital’s image was being damaged by the poor performance of “bread and butter” council services.

However, the city was rated highly as a place to live, with backing for libraries and public transport offering a strong indication that overall satisfaction remains strong.

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Bin collections and dog mess are a problem. Picture: Paul Cockburn

And the general approval rating for the council’s management of the city has risen by 21 per cent since 2009, with council leader Andrew Burns crediting the launch of the tram line after years of delays as a key factor.

However, he accepted that the city must work to improve perceptions of cleanliness, particularly on dog fouling.

Councillor Burns said: “We can’t escape the fact that there has been a pretty significant drop in satisfaction around issues like dog fouling, but also with street cleansing. There are a few issues that we need to focus a bit more attention on.”

“We potentially need to use the information we’ve got from this survey to support our enforcement.”

The percentage of residents satisfied with measures to deal with dog fouling has more than halved in six years, down from 62 per cent between 2009-11 to 30 per cent in 2014.

A high-profile campaign to Dish the Dirt run by the council and supported by the Evening News saw the number of fines issued for dog fouling fall, with 272 handed out in 2012, 291 in 2013 and just 232 in 2014.

Residents also gave changes to bin collections the thumbs down, with ratings for refuse services falling from 86 per cent in 2009-11 to 62 per cent last year and recycling satisfaction dropping from 80 per cent to 65 per cent. Street cleaning satisfaction has dropped from 79 per cent to 58 per cent over the same period.

The survey gives the first long-term indication of attitudes towards council performance on a range of issues, having been launched just eight years ago to gauge the feelings of residents.

Cllr Burns said: “The top line figures continue to offer encouragement and reassurance that, broadly speaking, residents believe we are managing the city well.

“Equally, there’s no point denying that there are challenges in some areas where we need to focus attention.

“We have a huge increase in demand on our services, primarily at both ends of the age spectrum, and we’ve got an increasing population, so it’s not a huge surprise that we have a challenge in terms of performance.”

Council officials said the move to reduce the size of bins for landfill waste had seen recycling rates rise and the amount of rubbish going to landfill fall by up to a third.

But opposition Tory councillor Cameron Rose said the system for emptying street bins “cannot cope” with demand.

He said: “I’m just so depressed by the mess in the streets. A lot of it is due to street bins not being collected, overflowing, and it just blows around in the wind.

“These are bread and butter services that are just not being provided adequately – and they could be.

“Things could be so much better, and we could be proud of our city streets.”

City environment leader Cllr Lesley Hinds defended the council’s record on cleanliness and urged residents to take responsibility for their own rubbish.

She said: “Though people are still getting used to the service, it is having an extremely positive effect on recycling rates, which have gone up by more than 100 per cent for the houses involved.

“We are constantly looking at ways of improving street cleanliness too, but it is down to the public too to help us ensure our streets clean and tidy, and I would urge people to behave responsibly when disposing of litter, taking their dog for a walk or recycling rubbish.”

She was backed by Derek Robertson, chief executive of charity Keep Scotland Beautiful, who said it was up to residents to catch litter louts and dog foulers in the act.

Mr Robertson said: “Clearing up litter costs Scotland more than £1 million each and every week, but there are other consequences too. Visitors to Scotland don’t get the clean and green welcome they deserve and may not return.

“Litter and dog fouling impact on our health, and are barriers to developing civic pride and a sense of community in too many parts of Scotland – including our capital city.

“According to our research, 70 per cent of people have seen someone dropping litter in the previous three months – yet the litter louts continue to flout the rules and soil our communities.

“Maybe we all have a part to play in ensuring that dropping litter becomes as unacceptable in future as drink-driving is today.”


By Chas Booth Green councillor for Leith Ward

That Edinburgh citizens’ satisfaction with street cleanliness, litter and dog mess has plummeted unfortunately comes as no surprise.

My constituents tell me dog mess is not cleaned up quickly enough, and in some areas litter, fly-tipping and dumping are getting worse.

Keeping the streets clean is a basic part of the council’s role, and it’s something we should get right.

It’s not rocket science – we need enough street sweepers to clean the streets promptly, and must challenge the behaviour of the irresponsible minority who cause the problem.

Cleaning the streets quickly is obvious. Litter or dog mess is a nuisance, so we need to resolve it fast.

But if we leave litter or mess on the streets, studies show that simply encourages more litter and mess, so quick action also nips the problem in the bud.

And challenging the behaviour of those who make the mess is vital.

We need to catch offenders and dispense on-the-spot fines.

If people think they will get away with it, their selfish behaviour will continue.

So plenty of environmental wardens are needed.

Until our streets are cleaned more promptly, and the offenders challenged, public satisfaction will remain elusive.