Blame won’t pick it up

Last night, Councillor Fitzgerald (who lives in Orton Longueville and represents West ward (and before that a Bretton ward) ward decided to blame residents of Central and Park wards on Twitter and not only that, but to pick on the newest Labour councillor in Park Ward (who as he explains wasn’t there to respond).

Fitzgerald cited a fly-tip “heat map” which shows fly-tip incidents in Peterborough unitary authority area over the past three years as “hot”. The heat map was discussed in cabinet but all this particular councillor took away from the meeting was a magnificent opportunity to blame the Labour Party on Twitter for the hot spots.

Given the recent resignations of Cllrs Mahabadi and Ferris from East and Park wards respectively, and especially noting what  they said in their resignation address, you’d expect him to think for a minute or two before launching into his usual blame game. But apparently not.

Council’s Waste Trial lost revenue and probably fewer than 150 fly tips were averted

Waste activism in Peterborough has a long and distinguished history and a great many people and many organised groups have got stuck in, many of them heroically and steadily cleaning up things which simply shouldn’t be where they are.

This blog years ago as a lament that I had not been able to achieve something I’d dedicated a great deal of time and energy to: stopping the construction of a plant to incinerate domestic waste. And in this blog I began to look at and discuss the politics of Peterborough generally, partly in order to understand and explain the weaknesses of campaigning organisations in the city (who I then felt could all have done better) against a political decision to incinerate, based on levels of (elected councillor) ignorance which I’d never encountered before in any organisation. I needed to understand how that had happened too, and who benefits from a toxic waste disposal policy. Who benefits from a waste policy which isn’t working.

Meanwhile it seems that the attitudes I encountered: literally: “if you can’t see it, there is nothing there” approach to stack emissions has created a national problem, especially in England, which now does things worse and to lower standards than Scotland, Wales, the USA and Europe. Brexit might offer hope to those that are keen to practice toxic politics, but the toxins left in our environment aren’t going anywhere.

But about three years ago the Green Party began a Flash Mob Litter Pick, which roved around in response to resident callouts to deal with litter hotspots. Here’s a Flash Mob after a session litter picking in 2016, taken in a New England cul de sac: Like any litter picker, we were dealing with the council and its ways of doing things, with the odd hazardous item (discarded hypodermic needles are one of the worst at the moment) and we were also thinking about things like the bags the council uses, why people do what they do, where it comes from and how it travelled to where it is. We had hundreds of conversations, with each other, with passers by, with the council and with the people who deal with fly tipped toxic wastes (such as paints, oils, chemicals). It didn’t take us long to appreciate that people were sometimes being turned away by the legal disposal routes because of the way they had been implemented by the council or because of the conversations they had had with council operatives. We encountered a number of people who had been turned away from the Household Waste centre at Dogsthorpe. We realised that if you make people feel they are doing something wrong when they thought they were doing something right (they just didn’t know about the law or the procedure for doing what the council requires them to do) you are probably just building anti-council feelings and even another fly tip. The council operative is probably doing the right thing: saying all the right things, but the person to whom they are talking is struggling to cope with the situation. Some people get angry. Some people are shocked. In this situation, people may hear what is said to them, but they won’t be able to listen. So as we picked, we worked out that if one cul de sac could produce two car boot fulls of waste and a pile of fly tip, then there would be several skips full in each ward in the city. The volume of discarded waste lying around in our environment, defining our environment for everyone living or growing up in it – are unbelievable.

With fly tip, we looked at it and we began to understand the impact of the nice man at the front door who offers to take away your rubbish despite not having obtained the all important waste carrier’s licence. The role of this character is key: he (we think it is usually a he!) has perfectly understood the business opportunity provided to him by this corporate communications disaster.

Sometimes it is a whole house contents which is tipped out onto the highway, or someone else’s private property. Anybody in Peterborough can see that there is a big problem with landlords, or with people providing services to landlords and tenants. People living in or running the rental sector grab the cheapest furniture, because tenures are short and incomes are tight and what could be a re-use opportunity is instead a dumped problem. Legitimate house clearance businesses: where are they?

Julie Howell (pictured here in New England) took the conclusions to Orton Waterville where she was a parish councillor and she applied herself to communicating directly with every resident. Waste management was just one of the things she tackled in her communications. Here she discusses fly tipping on her blog:

And here she is discussing fly tip on Radio Cambridgeshire yesterday morning:

Yesterday she was responding to the council leader who made some interesting comments in an article published in the Peterborough Telegraph soon after Julie was elected to the city councillor and thereby displaced the cabinet member responsible for waste management. The paper’s headline and the photograph put fly tipping into the spotlight.

First he announces that fly-tipping will be “a focus” for the council this coming year. And admits that the issue was “repeatedly raised on the doorsteps in the run-up to the elections.” This might suggest that there is hope.

But then he says something really interesting. What he appears to do in a scant four lines of text, is give a summary of the results of the Free Bulky Waste Trial. I don’t know if a detailed analysis of the results of the trial has been made available to elected councillors or whether or not that analysis breaks down at ward level. But if not that is what I’d be asking for if I was a councillor.

Holdich claims that the trial “made no difference to the amount of fly-tipping,” This suggests that the council has a way of very accurately measuring fly tipping activity over a period of time. That would be very interesting, if it were true. I think the police might be interested in how the council knows this too, since not being able to catch fly tippers is one of its defining and most annoying characteristics.

Then he asserts that “the council missed out on £40,000 from fewer paid collections.” Now, assuming he’s right about that, it suggests to me that the people making use of the free trial were people who would otherwise have called the council to arrange a paid for collection. This group of people, complying with existing procedures and forking out for the collections they organise does not strike me as an appropriate target group if you wanted to attract the waste which is being fly tipped and the people doing the fly tipping, because this group is by Holdich’s definition not fly-tipping their waste anyway. They are doing it correctly and dutifully providing the council with additional revenue.

Then Holdich claims that “It’s a national problem and nobody has come up with a panacea.” I think by calling on a Greek goddess, he is both looking for and deriding a universal fix. He might do better if he looked systematically at another goddess: Hygeia is the Greek goddess of cleanliness and hygiene, a goddess understood by the Greeks to be part of Aesclepius’ family of medicine, health and feeling good generally.

But let’s have a closer look at the council’s “Free Bulky Waste Trial”. It was designed to run for thirteen weeks: from 11th December to 9th March. A bulky waste collection normally costs £23.50. So adding up the available collections during the free trial, we have a cap of 52 collections per day, and an estimated “more than 1,000 free collections” during month one. Then a maximum of 26 per day for the remainder of the trial. Residents would be free to book a collection between 4th December to 5th March. So what actually happened?

We don’t know, except that the available slots were taken up enthusiastically to the extent that no more bookings for free collections were taken from 25th January, six weeks before the trial was supposed to end. Taking Christmas into account, the Trial stopped half way through. In fact it didn’t survive the Spring Clean Season. When the council closed new advance bookings, it was clear already that it was well organised people who were using the trial.

What we do know is that if £40,000 revenue was lost to the council because people using the trial would otherwise have booked a chargeable collection, then 1702 free collections were made who’d otherwise pay for those collections. These will have been well organised people complying with procedures, who probably were unlikely to be fly tipping waste or giving it to to a fly tipper masquerading as a legitimate waste handler before the trial began.

The big question, then, is how many collections were made above 1702.

52 per day for the first month would give us four weeks one of which includes the Christmas break. So let’s say 52 x 4 x 3 = 624

Then we have 26 per day for the other nine weeks, so x 4 x 9 = 936

If we add these figures together and take them away from 1702, we get 142.

Roughly one hundred and forty two collections were available to people who maybe would NOT normally have called the council. And that figure can only be true if the council and those people were able to use every single slot it had available. Given that this target group is likely to be less well organised, less well resourced and generally less compliant with how the council runs things, I find this highly unlikely.

We don’t know if the council added capacity, as it promised it would at the outset of the trial if demand was high. And if it didn’t, we don’t know why it didn’t. It may have realised that the non fly tipping community was not engaging very much with its trial, and if so, that would not surprise me.

I am sure that Holdich feels that the trial proves his point. I dare say it proves mine too: that the systems in place are unfit for purpose for many sections of our community and it is also clear that the ruling Conservatives still have no sensible plan in place to change that.


MANERP’s hustings Thursday 1st June

MANERP’s hustings Thursday 1st June


Peterborough International Christian Centre, Lincoln Rd, Peterborough PE1 2PE

Brian Gascoyne Image Credit:

Our Chair for the evening will be Brian Gascoyne, who chairs Peterborough’s Holocaust Memorial Day Committee and serves on Peterborough Racial Equality Council

MANERP says: “MANERP stands for the Millfield and New England Regeneration Partnership.
It is a Peterborough voluntary community association which receives no funding at all from ratepayers or taxpayers. All of its committee members and officers do not claim a single penny for the work that they do and do not claim any form of expenses either.
MANERP was formed in 2005 by residents who lived and people who worked work in the Millfield and New England in order to prevent the deterioration of the area because of the massive effect the influx of asylum seekers, refugees and EU migrants. The population had grown so quickly over a two year period that the infrastructure was failing to cope.
The Peterborough City Council agreed to recognise the group and its’ constitution was ratified and very quickly the association started to make representation to the council on several issues of concern. The main issues are:
The main issues are:

Private Rented Housing and Accommodation
Alcohol Licensing
Health and Wellbeing
Diversity and Cohesion

MANERP will continue to press for improvements to Millfield and New England as that is its’ mission. No matter what is thrown at the organisation, it will always put the peace and tranquillity of its’ residents first and foremost as its’ main priority.
If you live, work or have any connection with the MANERP area then please join us! We meet on the first Thursday of every month (except January) at the Peterborough International Christian Centre, Lincoln Road, (on the corner of York Road), Millfield, Peterborough at 7.15pm.” The Millfield and New England Regeneration Partnership (MANERP) is here:

Image Credit: Google Street View


click this link to go to google maps:

Peterborough’s nappy app

Yesterday, inspired by comments about walking by Ch Ali Shan, I smashed a personal best (PB). I completed a hyper leaflet drop. I knew it would be tough, so I decided to use a smart phone app called mapmywalk.
I was thinking I could picture my leaflet drop to produce something shareable with the team (we’d just broken all our leafletting records over the weekend) and that this would be fun for me on a tough day and we might end up with something we could all use. I don’t go nuts for personal performances or PBs (well, not usually!) but the mapping bit could turn out to be extremely useful. But I’d already set off, before deciding to give it a go and downloaded the app on the go. (I wouldn’t do that usually.) So I began with an inaccuracy: a bit of real walk not covered by the walk being built by the app.
Doing this properly, you’d have to decide: what is the start of the drop: where you start delivering, or your home?
As I went, I found good things to snap:

Although this pathway needs the no cycle sign and the dreadful barriers removed, I loved the blossom framed by the archway.
I passed some stunningly beautiful gardens

And you can’t go anywhere in Peterborough now without finding ghastly things on pavements. The stuff we can’t live with and before it has done a job is no longer worth the cost of disposal to people who value what cash they can get. I now report there and then, using: FixMyStreet, which has much more functionality than MyPeterborough which, despite being a very poor and unresponsive (i.e. the app developers don’t respond to user queries) app, is the only one listed on the council’s website. Here are some of the horrible things walkers come across every day in Peterborough:


You can pause the “walk” on the app and resume, so as keep the walk part look like an actual walk and the stop and do things or chat to people not look like part of the “walk”. If it were possible to do this correctly, the app would give you an accurate average speed for when you were really walking. It sounds easy, but every time I did something like  reporting a discarded pct and then the mouldy chair without remembering to pause the app each time, there would be an impact on my “walk’s” average speed and my results would get less and less true.
In fact, yesterday, I think as I pressed resume, just after the mouldy chair by the bus stop and the public toilets which have been closed for over a decade, I lifted my head, ready to go and a massive training lorry swung swung into a small tree in front of my eyes. There are moments when apps are not even in your consciousness.
But once or twice I also forgot to resume until I was several hundred yards from where I’d stopped. This error is funny because the app creates something which looks like a flight path on the “walk”. When I did this and turned a corner, the app would draw a flight path straight through a house. And when I stopped in The Crown for a coffee (yes, they do), the app stayed there long after I’d set off again, sat and maybe dozing in front of the fire, improving my average as I walked on and on without using any time, and waiting for another short flight.
I wonder if a pedometer rather than a route mapper would have worked better for me, or maybe one which does both? Because unless you are delivering to homes with very long driveways, the app doesn’t see the little sideways ducks and dives from the pavement to the letterboxes. That is OK if what you are mapping is an ordinary walk. But a leaflet drop is something else.
People look down on leafletting or assume (sometimes at their peril) that it is easy. In fact it isn’t easy: it is very physical and the best footwear would probably be cross trainers. It isn’t just the walking: it is the sharp turns round gates, bending down to letterboxes, some of them at ground level. Leafletting certainly gives your whole body a workout. This is why councillors ask people to help them deliver and promise them they can shrink their waistlines. This promise is actually true. It is also hard on the knees, because if you walk fast your body needs to change direction fast.Which app best describes this sort of activity?
As for today, I might write a bit and check on my seedlings or if my legs can cope, I might pop down to the Real Nappy Library, who are doing their bit to reduce landfilled nappies in Central Park today till 2pm.


Spot the Difference

2016 04 16 14:47 at the beginning of a leafletting session. Not reported: with a crowd and didn't want to hold people up.
2016 04 16 14:47 at the beginning of a leafletting session. Not reported: with a crowd and didn’t want to hold people up.
2016 04 16 18:13 Now alone and on my way home from leafletting, thought it worth posting a report on my lovely Fix My Street app. Could not believe what I saw. Decided to post the first picture on my Fix My Street app.
2016 04 16 18:13 Now alone and on my way home from leafletting, thought it worth posting a report on my lovely Fix My Street app. Could not believe what I saw. Decided to post the first picture on my Fix My Street app.
Click here to find Fix My Street which works on a smart phone.
Click here to find Fix My Street which works extremely well on a smart phone.