THE COST of clearing rubbish from Yorkshire’s streets has gone up by millions of pounds in the last six years - at a time when council budgets have been cut by 40 per cent.
Government figures show the region’s local authorities spent £77.1m on street cleansing in 2013/14, the most recent figures, compared to £68.7m in 2008/09.
The rise in spending is in stark contrast to the national picture, which saw expenditure in English authorities as a whole drop from £858.7m to £811m over the same period, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Since 2010, councils have seen their Government funding cut by up to 40 per cent, with authorities serving in deprived areas hit the most, the Public Accounts Committee of MPs warned in January.
Today The Yorkshire Post is launching a new campaign to call on its readers to take action and organise community clean ups next month to make the county sparkle.
The campaign, Clean Up Yorkshire, is being supported by The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which has ran a littering campaign since 2008, Stop the Drop. It estimates the true cost of littering in England is around £1billion a year - as street cleansing does not include clearing up litter on major roads, motorways or the rail network.
Yorkshire has a beautiful landscape and amazing biodiversity that is being threatened by toxic products like plastic bags, glass, cans and bottles that are languishing in our hedgerows when they could be recycled or reused.Stop the Drop campaign manager Samantha Harding
Stop the Drop campaign manager for the CPRE, Samantha Harding, said: “While it’s heartening to see councils investing in environmental quality, they are spending more money at a time when they are being squeezed. This figure needs to drop and that will take a societal change.
“We need to see more money invested in schemes that will eradicate littering, rather than paying out to clean up the problem.
“Yorkshire has a beautiful landscape and amazing biodiversity that is being threatened by toxic products like plastic bags, glass, cans and bottles that are languishing in our hedgerows when they could be recycled or reused.”
Across Yorkshire, Barnsley, Leeds and Hull spent the most on street cleansing in 2013/14, according to the DCLG, - £13.9m, £9.8m and £9.3m respectively. The figure includes street cleaning, sweeping and removal of refuse in public areas, as well as the collection of illegally fly-tipped rubbish, the removal of abandoned vehicles and removal of graffiti. Each authority said the figure on picking up litter alone was lower, due to other associated costs.
A spokesperson for Barnsley Council said it did not recognise the most recent figures, which coincide with changes to neighbourhood services. It is investigating how they were calculated.
Leeds Council’s executive member for cleaner, stronger and safer communities, Coun Mark Dobson, said cleaning up “the mess of everyday life” cost £8m a year. It already sees community groups and businesses help in the fight against litter, and he hopes that Clean Up Yorkshire will inspire people to join in.
He said: “We don’t want to continually spend money and use resources repeatedly cleaning up after others. Equally, we don’t want communities feeling uncared for.
“We’ll continue to work with communities to re-forge a sense of civic pride and help them make long-lasting change.”
Hull Council, which included grounds maintenance and tree operations in its total spending figure, said it spent £4.162m on street cleansing alone in 2013/14 for the maintenance of a “tightly compact network” across the city.