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Southwark Council's services


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Dear all, I am just trying to get some opinions about the services at Southwark Council. I lived in the area for 20 years and we all pay council tax every month for these services. I used to think the local services were good but in the last ten years I have noticed a decline and below are some examples


1) Bulky waste collection-used to be free but now its ?25 and if you need to cancel its non refundable.

2) Streets don't seem clean anymore and dog mess is everywhere

3) Planning Department will approve mostly any project and are dismissive to neighbours concerns

4) Impossible to talk a Council officer on the phone, as we are just put into queues and if you can get a response it is usually a dismissive and blunt email.


Does anyone else have similar concerns? I have mentioned these problems to local councillors but no real changes made yet. I expect that Southwark has resource issues (perhaps around funding or staff) but I really think they could do better

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2) Streets don't seem clean anymore and dog mess is everywhere


I don't think the council can really be blamed for this, under current legislation - it is dog owners (or walkers) with a complete disregard for their fellow citizens - possibly lock-down dogs bought by people who don't know (or care) how to look after them in a suburban context. If I was to look for 'wasted' expenditure it would be on council dog wardens policing poo. I agree that there is more about, of course. In Iceland (Reykjav?k) dogs can only be owned if the all the neighbours agree - and they can only be walked in one area alone (as regards pooing). I'm not sure we are communitaire enough for that here.

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I suppose I was thinking that the Council should fine people more for allowing dogs to mess up the street. The responsibility is with the owner to clear up the mess but if more fines were handed out for non-compliance then this would be an incentive. I was also thinking bins for dog mess seem overflowing and their probably could be more bins for dog mess. Maybe
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I think the streets are pretty well maintained, as are the parks, vis-a-vis litter and the like. Council will collect flytipped rubbish if you ring or fill in a form. As for dog poo - that is on the dirty, anti-social effers who own them (which also goes for litterers). I think bulky waste is ok for a one off if it is efficient and they come on time, etc. (People can also use Gumtree, Freecycle, etc. for some items.) Trees are well maintained also, so in those respects I think the council is doing well.
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You might be aware already that you can report dogs' mess to the council via their website. It's easy to do, takes no more than a couple of minutes, and they come within 48 hours to remove it.


It's worth doing as it gets the mess cleared, and in my mind, the more resource the council have to allocate to clearing up other people's mess, the more likely they are to lean towards stronger enforcement.

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All councils are dealing with reduced 'spending power' due to cuts in government grants which they haven't been able to make up through increased council tax. Agree with Nigello, I think Southwark are doing pretty well under the circumstances. I'd also love to see more fines for non-compliance of various things but that involves people patrolling the streets and I imagine they don't have the manpower.
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Issue 4 is the most pernicious.


They don?t want anybody to speak to them directly, the only communication filtered, prioritised (including ignored) & allocated as they see fit. Plus ?they? will be some crude computer algorithm.


Very worrying development.


TfL went the same way you are not allowed to ring any of them up, or even who does what, or who is responsible for what.


Someone even tried to get freedom of info request about who to contact about parking matter. It got back after 3 months ?request denied? to ?protect staff from any abusive calls?, ?equality & inclusion?, ?safe work environment? etc etc etc some nonsense


Look at the absolute state of that (TfL)


Most unreliable poor quality overcrowded dysfunctional bankrupt & expensive on the planet

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The Tooley Street HQ is home for 2,000 staff and is all open plan. Officers have been working from home since March 2020. Staff were recently informed that only 900 employees could be in the premises at any one time. I would say that most of the dissatisfaction with the council relates to staff not being allowed to have face to face contacts with local residents and not being able to phone the council sections directly. Councillors have only recently been allowed to hold their surgeries. All local councils have restricted finances as the Government have cut back the amounts allocated to local authorities.
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#1) waste disposal is an expensive business. If the waste producer doesn't pay for it, all taxpayers will. There's no easy answer.


#2) never heard of anyone anywhere actually getting fined for letting their dogs shit on the street (a shame, as I would suppose an authoritarian response). There will never be enough street sweepers to pick up all the dickheads...but TBF better dustbins and better enforcement of dumping would stop foxes spreading stuff anywhere.


#3) planning is very tough.


#4) between austerity and COVID, it's not easy. However - a lot of people really prefer to communicate face to face or at least by email, not through apps and forms. When emails or forms are sent, I have a 50/50 experience of whether they're responded to immediately or not replied to at all...

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Appears another Trojan horse for anti LTN.


But in a positive spirit - your pavements are in much better condition than us peeps over the border in Lewisham


And you seem to have better investment in libraries.


Not done any other comparisons. When people here whinge about having to pay, for example, for garden waste collection I have no sympathy as most of us can afford to pay and we shouldn't be subsidised by those who don't use or need such a service.

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Pugwash Wrote:

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> The Tooley Street HQ is home for 2,000 staff and

> is all open plan. Officers have been working from

> home since March 2020. Staff were recently

> informed that only 900 employees could be in the

> premises at any one time. I would say that most of

> the dissatisfaction with the council relates to

> staff not being allowed to have face to face

> contacts with local residents and not being able

> to phone the council sections directly.

> Councillors have only recently been allowed to

> hold their surgeries. All local councils have

> restricted finances as the Government have cut

> back the amounts allocated to local authorities.


Most other organisations have returned to the office in some shape or form (until today) - why is the council different?

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malumbu Wrote:

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> Appears another Trojan horse for anti LTN.


You're the first to mention LTN. In any case, considering you live across the border, is it really any of your business to get so involved in Southwark issues?


You don't see any of us interfering in Lewisham's awful council.

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Frankly, given the scale of budget reductions it is incredible that as many services continue to operate as well as they do.


https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/our-key-themes/local-government-finance/london?s-local-services-investing-future/decade-austerity


Not sure there are many organisations that continue to operate the same services when their income drops by 60%

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I agree with you on all of these. Just putting in another request on the council website tonight about fly tipping on a side road off of LL near the library. Weeks of it not getting any attention. Spoke to a Southwark streets maintenance person one day who said he would report it. That was a month ago.


The entire area has deteriorated considerably at this end of LL near the library. More litter. More fly tipping daily. People and businesses leaving rubbish on the pavement in bags. I thought it was just us, but we have had visitors who came after a few years and they even remarked how the area had changed.


The councillors for our ward are MIA. Jon I think and Margery are never to be seen around here. I?ve brought up the filth, graffiti on bus shelters/boards and neglected state of the area. Very little response or interest.


You see them all over Twitter on the doorstep walks, but never mentioning any of the actual issues constituents raise or what they are doing about them.


The dog mess is delightful this time of year with wet leaves and rain. The joy of feeling a squishy mess as you walk somewhere trying to dodge the people being walked by their dogs.


The reality is the councillors are only interested in issues that burnish their resumes from what I have seen. Big campaigns, social media hoopla, virtue politics and signalling. The hard, tedious, and boring work of handling complaints and dealing with day to day service failures doesn?t interest them. Getting tangible results for their ward members is not a priority.

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Maybe given the horrific events in the news in recent days, this is a moment to reflect on the reality our local services face.


Yeah, sure, fly tipping is a nuisance and dog s**t on the street is annoying and irresponsible, but what?s the alternative when authorities are trying to keep people safe from harm with fewer and fewer resources? Everyone is happy to jump on a media bandwagon when horrific things happen, but nobody wants to face the stark reality of these choices.


Are we saying we?d rather Southwark reduce even further services that save lives to speed up the response to dog s**t?

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sand12 Wrote:

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>here. I?ve

> brought up the filth, graffiti on bus

> shelters/boards

Bus shelters are a TfL thing, not a council thing. Every bus stop should have a sticker telling you the number to call if it's vandalised. There isn't an email address. When I've called about graffiti in the past, it's been fixed in 1-2 days.

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Hey, I agree total with Sand12. I would be interested to see how Southwark services rank when they are benchmarked against other local councils. I think out local Councillors are not involved enough with the services the Council provide and don't want to engage with residents complaints. I realise that money is probably the issue but the NHS provides a great service despite funding cutbacks and extreme pressure due to pandemic. My key problem with Southwark Council is that staff are so rude & dismissive when you do eventually get through to them and this is annoying because our council tax pay their salaries. What I would like to happen is the following


1)More bins for dog mess and these bins regularly emptied

2)Planning Department start listening and acting on neighbours/residents concerns for building projects

3)Bulky waste don't keep the ?25 if you cancel two weeks in advance

4)Council staff do customer service training, have service agreements and receive positive and negative feedback from residents so they can improve


I believe that the Council needs to be accountable for the service it provides and I am not sure it ever receives feedback from residents (I may be wrong though). I pay approx ?100 a month and surely that covers more than having bins emptied and for streets lights

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?I pay approx ?100 a month and surely that covers more than having bins emptied and for streets lights?


Yes of course it does, it pays for services that are essential for others but which you may not have any need of at present. These services include:

* social services

* education

* housing

* parks

* libraries


It?s not a question of getting your money?s worth but of the council also having the resources to provide services to the less well off and those less able to fend for themselves.


I feel I may be feeding a troll in posting this but such an attitude of entitlement needs countering.

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The lack of funding is true across the UK with councils having to make do with far less from the Tory central govt. This doesn't change the fact that this area in the past 20 years has gone through a massive gentrification process. Property values and rates have gone up, but services don't reflect this increased tax base. Seems like the opposite has occurred where despite the increase in wealth and business activity, the local area infrastructure and maintenance has deteriorated.


Social services are also pretty bleak at the moment as well as local school standards. Very likely many of the outstanding ones will be downgraded according to Ofsted. So, yes not just dog shit and graffiti.


I know TFL take care of the shelters, and I've done this as well. What happens a few weeks later? More of the same because, it isn't just one thing, it is the accumulation of lots of little things that make the area depressing and bleak: uncollected bins, flytipping, graffiti, dog mess, empty storefronts, slow slide into blight.

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Councils have had 40% cuts in real terms since the 2008 financial crisis. We are new to the Borough and find around where we are better maintained than my old council Lewisham. That bring said my partner has lived in Southwark before but not within East Dulwich and he found the management of council blocks / overcharging for zero work appalling. They aren't known as the best council but I think we have vocal enough residents to keep things going OK here. 🤞
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The council is undoubtedly in a very difficult place with cuts to funding and having to make tough choices. With the stark reality of less money to go around, could they adapt to think smarter and more creatively on things like litter & fly-tipping? Of course keeping vulnerable people safe from harm is more important but living in a well-cared for environment is still important to many peoples? wellbeing and happiness and it?s something that affects everyone. It's interesting the comments re. Lewisham as whenever I've been to comparable areas in Lewisham (Blackheath and Forest Hill), I always think they seem to be doing a good job- I guess the grass is always greener.



I think litter and fly-tipping are self-perpetuating- the more people see it happening, and getting away with it, the more inclined they are to follow suit, and ultimately this costs the council as they do have a legal duty to intervene at some point to clear it up. I have no evidence for this but I imagine there is also a link between environments being well cared for and businesses thriving which is all positive for jobs and money going back into the local public purse.


I?m sure none of this is straightforward and requires thinking through by people who know more about these things than I do but just carrying on with the singular focus on clearing up the rubbish when there is less money to fund street cleaning teams is obviously going to lead to the place being dirtier.


A few examples of ideas that could be worthy of consideration:

Focus more on prevention

? Have a good bin infrastructure: a lot of Dulwich, especially in areas with high foot fall, will keep itself pretty clean if there is adequate bin provision because most people don?t want to drop litter and would be embarrassed to be seen doing so. Most of the litter I see in busy areas is where there is no bin, or the bin is full and people stack it on top of the bin or optimistically ram it in, for it only to fall out five mins later. Yes, it costs money to empty bins more regularly/provide more but may be this is a better way to spend funds than getting people to clear up after the event. On days when you know it?s going to be busy e.g., Saturday morning, make sure the bins are empty because we know people are going to go to the market and coffeeshops and buy takeaway food and drinks- if there?s nowhere to put the rubbish, it will lead to some form of littering. (although the throw away culture is obviously a whole other problem in itself which needs to be tackled).

? Use self-funded enforcement: enforcement schemes can fund themselves via fines. I?m sure this is fraught with challenges and the council is probably reluctant to roll-out another fine based initiative with the furore around LTN fines still raging but this is at least targeted at activity that most people would agree is wrong.


Tap into the community

There are community schemes all over the country that have taken on a role in supporting the effort to keep neighbourhoods clean but for this to reach any scale, this does require some funding and support from somewhere and the council could play a role in this (their cleaner, greener, safer scheme only covers permanent fixtures like gardens and painting fence posts). I have approached the council and volunteered to partner with them to set up such a scheme- as yet there has been very little meaningful interest and has gone no-where. It feels like a lack of leadership on this agenda when you can?t offer help in exchange for some support (even if they just pay for some litter pickers). Examples of where other areas are adopting such an approach are here:

? Lambeth Neighbourhood Champions: https://beta.lambeth.gov.uk/your-community/get-involved/community-groups-projects/become-neighbourhood-champion

? Chichester adopt-a-street: https://www.chichester.gov.uk/adoptanarea

? Malvern Hills adopt-a-street: https://www.malvernhills.gov.uk/community/adopt-a-street

? Lewisham: https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/environment/environment/environmental-volunteering

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The average home pays Band D Council tax to Southwark Council of ?1,034.11 this council tax year April 2021 to March 2022 - https://www.southwark.gov.uk/council-tax/bands-and-charges

The council cash spend pa has remained stable partly due to new homes - every new home the government pays councils ?9,000 for the first 7 years. Hence all those studio, 1 bed and 2 bed flats across Southwark.


I can't think of any organisation I pay over a ?1,000 every year and am unable to phone someone when I have issues.

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Maybe this is the problem? Council tax bands have been static since 1991???!!! So, a property in Dulwich which now on avg goes for upwards of a million pounds might still be banded as what the value was in 1991? How does that make any sense. Does anyone know how many local properties have been revalued and rebranded in this century?



James Barber Wrote:

-------------------------------------------------------

> The average home pays Band D Council tax to

> Southwark Council of ?1,034.11 this council tax

> year April 2021 to March 2022 -

> https://www.southwark.gov.uk/council-tax/bands-and

> -charges

> The council cash spend pa has remained stable

> partly due to new homes - every new home the

> government pays councils ?9,000 for the first 7

> years. Hence all those studio, 1 bed and 2 bed

> flats across Southwark.

>

> I can't think of any organisation I pay over a

> ?1,000 every year and am unable to phone someone

> when I have issues.

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