A series of Freedom of Information requests filed by Greener Leith suggest that residents of the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership area continue to get a raw deal from the council despite the fact that the Leith and Leith Walk wards are often independently graded as some of the dirtiest in the city.
Last year we reported that enforcement activity in the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership area had declined despite the fact that city-wide Environmental Wardens had been issuing more tickets than ever.
Senior council staff subsequently went on to promise a crack down on those people who fail to use litter bins, dump items in the street or fail to clear up after their dog. Despite this promise, the stats for the last financial year show little improvement.
As you can see from the graphs in this post, it seems the council has virtually ceased to issue fixed penalty notices for fly-tipping, even though 1392 people complained to the council about this in the last financial year. Only two fines for dumping were issued in Leith in this time: both went unpaid, and neither were referred to the Procurator Fiscal for follow up.
But even though only two dumping tickets were issued in the whole year in Leith, that still represents 12.5% of all the enforcement action in the city on this issue – and as Leithers made 13.4% of the total dumping complaints perhaps officials could argue they may hardly be issuing any tickets – but at least the inaction is spread out proportionally.
It’s hard to make the same claim about litter. City-wide the city has continued to increase the numbers of litter fines it dishes out year on year.
In 2010 657 tickets were issued city wide. Four years later this number has risen to 1573. Not bad. Sadly, Leith has not benefited from this trend at all. In 2010 154 litter tickets were issued in the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership area. Four years later that number is just 54.
It is already known that the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership wards are frequently assessed as below the minimum acceptable standard for litter by Keep Scotland Beautiful but if you look at the number of complaints to the council in the last year, the picture doesn’t get any better.
In the last financial year, the council received 60 complaints about litter from Leithers. This is equivalent to 17.6% of the 342 litter complaints received by the council from the whole city.
Contrast that with the fact that just 3.4% of all the litter fines issued in the city were issued in the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership area.
It’s a similar story for dog fouling, although to be clear the number of fines issued to irresponsible dog owners in Leith doubled last year – from 10 to 20. Those 20 fines were the local response to 260 complaints last year from Leithers for dog fouling – which is 14.6% of the whopping 1774 recieved city wide.
The 20 tickets issued in Leith, represent just 6.8% of all the dog fouling tickets issued in the city.
Now, by this stage you’re probably thinking OK already, enough stats.
But the reason these stats are important is because they indicate that the council is not taking a joined up approach to street cleanliness and the environment.
Street cleaning, enforcement and behaviour change resources have to be coordinated together.
Is there not an argument for taking resources from the parts of the city that are consistently way above minimum cleanliness standards to help improve standards in other neighbourhoods? Is it fair to suggest that the people who live in Leith deserve a worse service than those in the New Town? The levels of complaints Leithers have made certainly indicates that there are as many people in Leith as any other part of the city who care about the state of the streets. They just seem to be more likely to be ignored.
We’ve been arguing at places like the Clean Leith Forum for more joined up action to bring the wards with the greatest environmental problems up to the same standard as elsewhere, and for more service data to be published routinely so that people can have an informed discussion about their neighbourhood and how it compares to others in the city.
For example, what conclusion should Leithers draw from the fact that in Inverleith Ward, which only coincidentally elects Environment Convenor Councillor Hinds, 115 fines were issued for litter alone last year? In Leith Ward, during the same time period just 14 were issued.
In each quarter of that year, Inverleith scored above Leith Ward in the independent assessments undertaken by KSB
The biggest irony of all is that a key statistic used to monitor the overall performance of the council by the likes of Audit Scotland are the independent “LEAMS” surveys coordinated by Keep Scotland Beautiful. If the council put more resource into tackling the areas of the city, like Leith, that consistently score poorly, then the whole city-wide average score would go up – and everyone could claim a success.
Quite why this is isn’t apparently happening is anyone’s guess. And in the meantime it would seem that people will continue to try to make matters into their own hands, by organising community clean-ups and community-led anti-dog fouling campaigns themselves.