Croydon’s fly-tipping performance in 2015
Robert Ward and his graphs return on his favourite subject – just how well is Croydon Labour faring on its flagship environmental pledge? The answer has got a little more murky
When is a flytip not a flytip? When it’s an unconfirmed flytip, apparently. That there might be a difference was not apparent until March 2015. Till then, only reported flytips appeared in council statistics with a target to reduce them to less than 1,208 per month.
From March 2015 both reported and confirmed flytips were shown. In October the reported figure was dropped so now we only see confirmed flytips. At the same time the target was increased to 1,500 per month, but now not of reported flytips, but of confirmed flytips. The one is about 20% higher than the other so we are now around 50% less “Ambitious for Croydon” than we were.
My only experience of the difference is that I reported a flytip four times before it was cleared. My belief is that although it was on a public road, it was too narrow to get the lorry down. The flytip was not visible from the end of the road which was as close as the lorry and its occupants got. It is likely that this went down as three unconfirmed flytips. The intervention of Councillor Stuart King eventually got it cleared.
There is now a gatekeeper who can decide whether a reported flytip is confirmed
Other than the obvious, does this matter? Well, yes it does.
Firstly, the reported figure is created by the customer, the public. Unless there is a very strong reason not to do so, the customers’ perception should be paramount. Secondly, there is now a gatekeeper who can decide whether a reported flytip is confirmed. This puts an incentive on not confirming a flytip because performance against target will be improved.
It also removes any incentive to pursue the case of my repeated reporting of the same flytip. If it is constantly classified as unconfirmed it never dents the performance figures, so why investigate further?
The target for the number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued has fared better
Readers may recall that great play was made by the then-Labour opposition of the poor state of our streets in the run up to the May 2014 elections. Labour won those elections and has now been in power in Croydon for a year and a half. To their credit, they published performance information from soon after they took control, although they may now be regretting it.
Since then, performance has been less than stellar. The old target of fewer than 1,208 reported flytips per month has never been met, even in a single month. A second performance parameter was the percentage of flytips cleared within 48 hours. After initial improvements, not unexpected since this parameter had not been previously targeted, performance deteriorated such that the 80% target has not been met in any of the last six months.
On enforcement, the target for the number of Fixed Penalty Notices (‘FPNs’) issued has fared better. Previously 50 per month, it has now been increased to 80. However, these FPNs are for all environmental offences, not just for flytipping. Recent naming-and-shaming shows an increase in the number of FPNs for dropping cigarette ends, hopefully not evidence of an effort to boost the numbers.
As far as I can judge, the council is doing the right things
So two of the three performance parameters have been missed by some margin. In response the goalposts have been moved, according to the dashboard “following a review of London-wide trends”. I expect that this is referring to figures published by the ONS which show a general increase, but only in the order of single figure percentages.
Failure to meet targets happens all the time. If you always met your targets, then your targets were set too low or someone is cooking the books. What is important is how management responds. Disappointingly the response is to move the goalposts on the key measure. The target for the number cleared within 48 hours remains the same.
Is the council doing the right things? As far as I can judge it is, although more data is needed to judge objectively. My concern has always been that swift removal of flytips encourages the attitude that the council will quickly clean it up – so why not flytip or inform on others who do?
We should not forget who the villain of the piece really is
Emphasis has shifted belatedly to enforcement, for example naming and shaming offenders and crushing offending vehicles. This is the way that things need to go, although it may take some time to be reflected in the number of flytips.
So, Labour: please stop blaming the Tories, and accept that in spite of efforts things have actually got worse. But Tory criticism should be muted because the previous administration did let the issue slide, to their cost at the election. A little humility from both sides seems in order, leaving time and space for some robust discussion about the future rather than the past.
And beyond the political ding-dong, we should not forget who the villain of the piece really is. Each of us should do all that we can to report flytippers; not use unlicensed collectors and take some pride in our surroundings by not littering ourselves. You might also, like me, make a new year’s resolution to pick up one piece of someone else’s litter every day. Let’s put some substance behind our own claims to be concerned about the environment, and make 2016 the year when Croydon did indeed become cleaner.
About Robert Ward
Robert is an engineer and project manager who has worked most of his career in oil exploration and production. For the last fifteen years he has specialised in helping businesses improve their performance. Now semi-retired, he moved with his wife to South Croydon nine years ago. He is a member of the Conservative Party, and tweets as @moguloilman.
Tuesday 2nd February, 2016