Columnist Richard Davies: Taxpayer-funded cleaning service cannot continue - Grantham must do its bit

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
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Our green and pleasant land is under threat. There is a creeping insidious problem which is spreading across the country. Litter.

While only 28 per cent of us claim to drop it, recent research suggests the real figure is closer to 60 per cent. We are rightly embarrassed by it. We are rightly appalled when we see it. Yet we are still dropping it.

Recently I have had a number of people contact me complaining about roadside litter, and frankly I don’t blame them. It’s a national disgrace which the powers that be are largely ignoring.

The task for clearing litter, particularly roadside, is difficult, time consuming and expensive. The responsible body locally is South Kesteven District Council and they are doing a valiant job of trying to stay on top of the problem. However, litter along the A1 is a particular taxing problem to address as Highways England (previously embodied as the Highways Agency) insists on lane closures before authorising workers be allowed on the verges. I know from my own discussions regarding the new A1 relief road junction how eye wateringly expensive that prospect is.

At some point, litter blights every street corner, bus stop, park bench and highway in the land. Here in Grantham itself we see less ‘window ejected rubbish’ and more ‘I’m too stupid to find a bin rubbish,’ often in the form of cigarette butts and chewing gum. When I walk around the fantastically improved Market Place it’s really disappointed to see some areas blighted by the selfish and lazy.

Local authorities, however, no longer have the money to act as our collective cleaner, and this taxpayer-funded cleaning service cannot continue indefinitely. The reality is that we are already starting to see both cuts in services and, consequently, the early signs of a decline in the cleanliness of our streets. The proportion of sites below an acceptable standard for litter increased by three per cent in 2011/12 in comparison to the previous year. This trend is likely to continue.

Every year, enough street litter is collected to fill Wembley Stadium four times (30m tonnes) and the annual cost in England of cleaning chewing gum is approaching an eye watering £60m. The total litter cost being over £1b, enough to fund 38,644 social care workers or pay the running costs of 4,400 libraries. Alternatively, it would enable the NHS to pay for 33,200 nurses or 26,900 paramedics or allow the fire brigade to fund 31,990 extra firefighters each year.

So what can we all do to help? Well firstly don’t drop litter, secondly encourage those around you not to drop litter. If you see someone dropping rubbish ask them to pick it up. We need to make dropping litter as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. Please also support the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign, or {http://www.southkesteven.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=7750|find out more info about local initatives.