This week, the House of Commons is debating really far reaching and profound constitutional issues like Scottish devolution and the forthcoming European Union referendum.
Ultimately however, all politics is local politics, and credit where it’s due, news that Peterborough City Council is to upgrade its bin capacity (trebling it in most residential and commercial areas) as a response to residents’ concerns about dirty streets and littering, is very welcome.
It’s part of the Greener Cleaner campaign initiative but I hope that it’s really only the start of a concerted drive.
There’s plenty of evidence that the “Broken Windows” approach pioneered in New York, is the right way to tackle the scourge of anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping, graffiti and vandalism: You don’t just leave the broken window as visible evidence of official ambivalence, which encourages more damage but you keep repairing it to show commitment to standards, community cohesion and a sense of communal shared purpose.
The City Council could and should proceed by launching mobile litter “hit squads”, aggressively tackling individuals who litter, spit or worse (and I’ve seen them all believe me!) – and a good place to start would be Lincoln Road in Millfield, which at times is embarrassingly filthy with litter strewn across pavements and roads.
I’m not interested in excuses about “cultural” issues – nobody wants to live and work in a slum and why should they if they’re paying their Council Tax?
And what about the bottom of Eastfield Road? It needs urgent action to prevent a further slide into dilapidation and decay and it’s surely time to stand shoulder to shoulder with decent local residents and taxpayers who deserve better.
This needs to be part of a bigger quality of life agenda, focused on the inner city part of Peterborough: Tougher license restrictions and fewer alcohol licences granted, a coherent and robust planning policy which curtails, indeed cracks down on rapacious slum landlords, Houses in Multiple Occupation and unauthorised extensions, proper enforcement of infringements like cycling on pavements and anti-social parking (especially around schools) and if we are committed to building a public realm to be proud of, in the city centre and beyond, why don’t we think again about bringing back street wardens?
We need organisational heft but political leadership too.
I know money is tight but with a newly reformed Cabinet and Leader, isn’t it the right time for a fresh approach?