Category Archives: Environment

Two years to fix Brighton’s broken bins service, says new boss

From The Argus

Give it six more months and Brighton’s bin collection problem will start clearing up.

Overflowing rubbish bins in Hove.

That is the promise made by new Cityclean chief Rachel Chasseaud to long-suffering residents.

She says the main issues within Cityclean are poorly planned routes, uncompetitive salaries and a breakdown in communications, which has seen staff morale plummet.

High sickness day rates have also played a part in people’s bins not being collected regularly since late last year.

There is a long road ahead and Ms Chasseaud insists it will not be a straightforward task – and it will be about two years until the inadequate £10.3 million service is functioning the way it should be.

Ms Chasseaud’s plan is to restructure the routes for refuse collections so places that are being missed more frequently are targeted, though this is expected to take half a year.

In an interview with The Argus, she said: “It’s amazingly complex as to why there’s been problems. It’s something that’s happened over a period of time, not overnight.In six months people will see a big change.

“The round restructuring will take six months. There are some fantastic people at all levels within Cityclean. They want to be providing a really good service and they do really care that it isn’t working.”

Cityclean has about 90,000 refuse collections, 45,000 recycling rounds and 600 communal bins to clear, in total, per week.

As part of a “modernisation programme”, the service is due to undergo an overhaul, led by Ms Chasseaud, which will see a mapping system put in place to track collections.

This will make it easier to tackle areas where bins are not collected as regularly, Ms Chasseaud said.

Communication with staff has also been a big issue, with many frontline workers feeling their relationship with managers has been non-existent in recent times.

Ms Chasseaud, who started her £80,000-a-year job as assistant director on September 3, has been getting to know staff and rebuilding burnt bridges with them and the GMB union.

She described the service’s relationship with the union, which in August threatened to take strike action, as “complex” but said a good bond between them is crucial.

Ms Chasseaud said: “What I hope I’m already changing is relationships within the service. I’m spending a lot of time talking and listening to staff. That’s something I believe is very important.

“One thing I’ve noticed is staff morale has been very low. I think it’s because communications have broken down. People are feeling stretched. There have been cuts in the service, meaning a reduction in management to have conversations with staff.”

She is also working on improving communications with residents as soon as possible.

Speaking about GMB, she added: “A good relationship with the union is really important. I don’t think it’s the union that’s caused the problems. It’s not all management’s fault either – it’s historic. Sometimes certain actions start happening – strikes are one of them.I haven’t heard the union raise anything that I don’t agree with. The union knows we need to do round restructures too and more around health and safety.”

Another reason given for the poor service has been staff shortages.

A Brighton and Hove City Council report released last week revealed the £20,138 salary for drivers – significantly lower than £25,500 offered in East Sussex – is to be reviewed in a bid to retain workers.

The council is currently looking to recruit two additional drivers and four binmen.

Ms Chasseaud said: “One problem is recruiting drivers. There’s been a real change in the market and there’s a bigger demand and it’s driving up wages. At Gatwick, drivers can make more money. In other local authorities around Brighton and Hove wages are higher than in the city.”

High staff sickness has also been a contributing factor to the bins debacle which has seen some residents wait more than three weeks to have their rubbish collected.

A Freedom of Information request by The Argus revealed a total of 7,228 sick days were taken by Cityclean’s 275 members of staff, which includes office workers and managers as well as binmen, from January 2017 to August this year.

The council said the sickness rate is higher among Cityclean workers, and Ms Chasseaud is aiming to improve some health and safety aspects of the service, such as ensuring workers are wearing sufficient personal protection equipment.

She said the workforce is of a slightly older generation, too, increasing the risk of injuries on the job.

The council report, which is being presented to the environment, transport and sustainability committee today, highlighted staff sickness and stated workers will be offered free health checks.

Ms Chasseaud said: “When you’ve got a large number of people doing manual labour, you always expect some increased sickness. Another factor is staff morale. That has an impact. There’s been a good take-up on the health checks. I’m going to do a lot of work around wellbeing. We expect to see an improvement in sickness levels. There are no major health and safety issues.”

She has confidence in her own ability and has even received the backing of opposition councillors, with Conservative Dawn Barnett believing Ms Chasseaud is the right person for the job.

Her contract lasts a year, but she is hoping to impress and take it on permanently.

Ms Chasseaud said: “I would like to be part of a longer term strategy to really turn things around.”

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Is it a bird, is it a plane………?

From Brighton & Hove Council

No – it’s a Superbin!

The first Superbin in Brighton & Hove will land in Preston Park on Thursday, and be unveiled by the Mayor Dee Simson.

The bin will be the star attraction at the annual Mayor’s Big Tidy Up,  when council parks staff and dozens of volunteer litter pickers will be in action, rolling up their sleeves and sprucing up the popular park.

At first glance, the Superbin looks like a normal litter bin, but open the door at the back, and you’ll find a stash of litter picking equipment for use by volunteers.

The bin has been installed as part of the council’s Tidy Up Team project. Trained volunteers will be given a code to the bin store, where equipment including litter pickers, gloves and bags are kept, make litter picking events easy to arrange.

The council launched the Tidy Up Team last year in a bid to encourage local people to help keep their parks and green spaces tidy by taking part in, and organising litter picking events. The scheme is co-ordinated by Cityparks staff and supported by Cityclean and local community groups.

“The response has been better than we ever hoped with hundreds of local people coming forward to offer their help, and keen to organise and run their own community events,” said Park Ranger Garry Meyer.

The council runs monthly training courses for volunteers to become Tidy Up team members, so they can safely collect litter in their local parks and green spaces.

As a result, litter picking events are now taking place regularly across the city, run totally by volunteers.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of the environment committee said: “It’s fantastic that so many residents are coming forward to sign up to the Tidy Up Team projects and help keep our city’s parks and open spaces looking lovely all year round.

“I’m looking forward to seeing our first city Superbin, which I hope will be a welcome addition to the park and its team of hard working volunteers.”

The new Superbin is unveiled at the Mayor’s Big Tidy up, on August 9 from 11am to 2pm.  The bin will enable trained Preston Park Tidy Up Team volunteers to arrange events at short notice without waiting for equipment to be dropped off and picked up.

The event will also see the launch of the council’s BIG Tidy Up scheme and information pack, which will enable community groups, schools and businesses to organise their own litter pick events.

Tell us about the places in your neighbourhood

From Paula Goncalves – 

The council is developing new guidance – the Urban Design Framework – to help shape buildings and spaces around the city. The aim is to make them easier to use and more attractive to people.

As the city grows we will be presented with proposals to develop and build new buildings and places. This provides the opportunity to improve existing areas as well as making sure we get usable, flexible and high quality new buildings and attractive public spaces.

To help us achieve this aim, the council wants to learn about your experience of the city to help create more welcoming buildings and public spaces through design.

Everyone in Brighton & Hove is invited to take part in a survey to share their views about the places they use and how they think these places could be improved.

All over the city there are close-to-home places that people have access to and enjoy spending time in. These can include parks, streets, squares, common areas of schools (eg playgrounds and playing fields), transport facilities and shopping areas.

Please fill in the survey at https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/udf-places The survey is open until 13 September 2018.

The information you provide will help shape the Urban Design Framework which the council, developers and landowners will use to make sure buildings and spaces fit the needs and aspirations of everyone who lives, works, studies in and visits the city.

Paula Goncalves
Planning Policy, Projects & Heritage Team
Brighton & Hove City Council

Email: planningprojects@brighton-hove.gov.uk
W: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk

Graffiti concern – open letter to Cllr Emma Daniel – 24th April 2018

To Brighton City Council via Cllr Emma Daniel, Major concern regarding exponential growth of graffiti across our City Chairpersons representing a wide variety of community groups across the city wish to voice their concern regarding the massive increase of graffiti and tagging across the city, particularly over the last twelve months. We are requesting leadership […]

via Graffiti concern – open letter to Cllr Emma Daniel – 24th April 2018 — London Road Area Local Action Team

Keep Varndean Green

From Green Vardean

Varndean College plans to sell off some of its land which is currently designated as a nature reserve to build just 10 houses.  An outline planning application has been submitted to Brighton and Hove Council

We are concerned that:

  • This application is for outline planning permission. The full application may be far more intrusive and destructive. 

  • The proposal sets a dangerous precedent for more development on the Varndean campus and elsewhere. Any green space in Brighton and Hove will be at risk. Plans are also confirmed for a full size, net covered all- weather sports pitch on the campus near Surrenden Crescent. 

  • A new road will be built behind and crossing the footpath, destroying the hedgerow, creating even more traffic and congestion with major safety risks for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists and ruining the view. 

  • A biodiversity reserve will be destroyed. Developed in 2010 with the support of the Council and Butterfly Conservation, the reserve is home to colonies of legally protected butterflies like the Small Blue. 

  • The proposed modern houses are not in keeping with the the local area. The view of the housing from the road will be of the garages and a semi-basement frontage. They will be very unattractive, block the view over Brighton and overlook the sports field, risking the privacy of our young students. 

    Click here for links to comment on the applications.

Country’s first electric bus fleet to be ready by autumn

From The Argus

THE first fleet of electric buses in the country is almost ready to take to the roads after enough funds have been raised to complete the project.

The Big Lemon previously received Government funding and has now raised the £405,000 needed to add three new electric buses to its fleet, which serves the people of Brighton and Hove.

The company, which was founded in 2007, is expecting its fleet of six buses to be up and running by autumn after initial test runs are carried out along certain routes.

Tom Druitt, founder and CEO of The Big Lemon, said: “I am thrilled to bits that the money has been raised so quickly.

“We have had 128 investors in total. They have been investing anything from £100 to £20,000.

“We have asked people why they are investing and the most common response is because they see it as the way things should be going.

“It will be the first in the country. It is a small network but a great start.

“We are always looking at the next step.

“We run various other services as well and are keen to run all these on electric as well.

“We have got lots of plans and are looking at what kind of different services we can offer alongside the public bus routes.

“This includes potentially more effectively routed and on demand services.”

The zero-emissions buses, which are fitted with solar panels, will be able to serve the whole route planned by the company once the fleet is finished.

The company set up a bond offer to attract investment for the project last month and after raising the funds needed, it will now be looking to raise an additional £135,000 to fund an extra bus for the fleet.

The project has been aided by money gained through the Clean Bus Fund and the Low Emission Bus Scheme.

It has gained the support of Brighton and Hove City Council and the Department for Transport (DfT).

One of the buses in the current fleet was a retrofit funded by the Clean Bus Fund and the three new additions to the fleet will be 138kWh Optare Solo electric buses.

The company set about raising the money after being awarded £513,000 from the DfT’s Low Emission Bus scheme.

With high levels of air pollution in mind, the company wants every community across the country to have access to a similar scheme by 2030.

For more information about the project or to invest and help the company fund a seventh bus for the fleet, visit thebiglemon.com/electric.