Regular readers of this blog will know that we’ve been calling for concerted action from the council to tackle the fact that independent “CIMS” surveys in Leith show that the area often fails minimum national standards for litter and street cleanliness.
This week it emerged that Leith Walk councillor and sponsor of the Clean Leith Forum, Deputy Provost Deidre Brock, will convene a cross-party “Litter summit” to try to solve this persistent local problem.
We were intrigued to hear that litter has at last started to move up the local political agenda, and so we asked to her to explain more. In this guest post, she writes:
I’m pretty excited about CIMS scores and I know you will be, too. They’re the talk o’ the steamie from the Shore to the City Chambers. We all want to get to at least 72 on the CIMS scale or, to put it another way, we want the streets to be clean. CIMS is the Cleanliness Index Monitoring System and it’s the cleanliness assessment scheme that Keep Scotland Beautiful manages nationally.
It’s clear that Edinburgh’s general cleanliness has shown some improvement in the last few years. CIMS scores show a gradual increase, and my personal impression is that there’s been a big improvement generally since I arrived from Australia and fell in love with the city and its people a couple of decades ago. That said, there’s a constant simmering frustration with cleanliness in Leith and it’s a frustration that I share.
Leithers have been raising it for years and councillors have been talking about it since the days of the old North and Leith Local Development Committee but it’s still there. In spite of the time, effort and resources that have gone into bringing Leith up to that magic 72, we’re still getting report after report from residents and businesses of problems with street cleansing, waste dumping, overflowing trade waste bins, inappropriate siting of communal and residential bins and a whole lot of other issues.
Folk quite rightly raise it at community councils, at Friends of Parks groups, by email, phone and letter, at parent councils, at councillor surgeries and when we meet them on the street. Other parts of the city seem to have cleanliness levels a whole lot better than those in Leith and there must be reasons for that. While other neighbourhood areas seem to have sorted their problems out, those changes are yet to fully come about in Leith and those of us who really love the place just want to see this beautiful, historic area improved and looking its best.
I’m delighted that five out of the six neighbourhood areas have shown some good improvement in recent years, getting CIMS scores of 67 or above, meeting the national acceptable standard target. As far as council wards are concerned, Leith Walk ward’s score was 63 in 2007 and now stands at 68; Leith’s was 62 in 2007 and is now 65.
They should be 72 or above, though, and, despite an encouraging trend upwards in the Leith ward in recent months, the latest quarterly scores showed another dip while Leith Walk ward, after being described as one of the dirtiest streets in Edinburgh, showed only a small rise.
Yes I know Leith has a high ratio of bars and restaurants per head of population with all the problems that can bring but I see no reason why we can’t get up to the same level of cleanliness as other areas of the city.
I know that groups like the Cleaner Leith forum and Greener Leith have come up with some good ideas to help tackle the issue. With the help of residents and businesses we’ve made sure that the specific problems of trade waste and communal bin placement on Leith Walk will be looked at properly under the reinstatement and improvement programme as we recover from the tramworks.
Let’s face it too, the cause of much of it lies with us, the people of Leith. A majority of people take care to make sure they do right by the community but we need to see everybody doing that. If everyone made sure to aim wrappers at a bin instead of the pavement after a takeaway, or lifted the lid to a communal bin and deposited household rubbish inside it rather than beside it on the road, or if all our traders ensured their waste bins were securely closed we’d see a dramatic drop in the amount of litter on our streets.
I know that many in our neighbourhood team are working their bahookies off to try to solve the problem and I know that people are putting in a lot of effort to make their own communities better places to live. Despite that, permanent solutions for the problems are still not clear.
So I’ve called for a round table meeting of Leith councillors (all parties, of course) to discuss this with the Director of Services for Communities and other key officers and find the solution. The Council Leader has agreed to attend too, and the Transport and Environment Convenor. I’m determined to get this sorted.
I’m convinced if we get all of the people involved – councillors, environmental and waste services, our task force and management – together, we’ll be able to get a proper focus and see the patterns that cause the problem. We’ll be able to agree action and get going on it – we want to see that happening now.
I want to see it discussed at Leith’s Neighbourhood Partnership and at one of our public meetings too. Keep telling me what you think – and telling the other councillors as well – and keep the ideas flowing. Leith belongs to Leithers – we can find the solutions we’re looking for, and we can implement them. We can make our streets places that we’re happy to walk along and where we don’t have to keep watching our feet. This is our community and they’re our streets; let’s get them back.
Written by Deputy Lord Provost, Deidre Brock.