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APSE Street Cleansing Seminar 2022: A Report Back

APSE Street Cleansing Seminar 2022: A Report Back

On 5 March 2022, APSE held its first in-person Street Cleansing Seminar for over two years at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham. Matt Ellis, APSE Communications Officer, provides a summary of the day’s speakers and the topics of discussion. 

A staple of the sector, APSE's annual Street Cleansing Seminar provides an excellent opportunity for local government streetscene teams to share best practice and brush-up on the latest technological and policy developments.

Delegates, ranging from officers to directors to elected members, joined us from across the UK to share best practice and emerging policy challenges across the local government landscape.

1. Creating cleaner, greener and safer local environments

A staple of the sector, APSE's annual Street Cleansing Seminar provides an excellent opportunity for local government streetscene teams to share best practice and brush-up on the latest technological and policy developments.

Delegates, ranging from officers to directors to elected members, joined us from across the UK to share best practice and emerging policy challenges across the local government landscape.

2. The state of the street cleansing sector

Wayne Priestley, APSE Principal Advisor, opened the session with an analysis of APSE’s new State of the Market on Street Cleansing; the emerging trends and what they mean on the ground for streetscene staff. A wide variety of local authorities from across the UK responded to the survey thus providing a meaningful cross-section of views.

APSE’s latest survey work honed in on the state of budgets, service efficiencies, income generation, as well as other areas of interest such as litter bin strategies and the use of community volunteers.

The survey found that despite a level of ongoing service budget pressures and the impact of the pandemic, managers and frontline staff are continuing to provide efficient street cleansing services. However, there is a real risk that service quality could diminish as a result of those ongoing pressures, which may include changes to cleansing frequencies, the need for investment and the impact of the pandemic

The APSE State of the Market findings stressed that it is critical that service resources are targeted more effectively in those areas where cleansing demands are highest. From the results received there does appear to be a greater level of optimism that closer monitoring of cleanliness levels with more targeted resource input will help stave off some of the worst excesses of funding cuts.  You can view the full briefing here. [ADD LINK]

3. Towards a litter free Scotland

Dr. Sarah Letsinger, Zero Waste Policy Officer, Scottish Government, was up next to outline progress on the 2014 National Litter Strategy, as well as the recommended priority areas for future strategy identified by the Strategy Review in 2019. Three priority areas identified include:

  • A focus on flytipping
  • Ownership of actions
  • Monitoring and evaluation

Dr. Letsinger was keen to emphasise the need to ensure a strong, consistent enforcement model that is fit for purpose. Proposals include raising fixed penalties to the maximum and taking powers to enable the seizure of vehicles used in flytipping. Ultimately, for Zero Waste Scotland, three strategic themes – behaviour change, services and infrastructure, Enforcement – are key to realising the ambitions of the Litter Strategy .

4. Local streets paved with gold

Our final speaker for Session One was Craig Fuller, Director of Sales at Roadvert who was on hand to highlight how his organisation has helped councils unlock fresh revenue streams from advertising; delivering highly targeted on-vehicle advertising campaigns for a fraction of the cost of mailshots.

A unique advertising medium that has a massive audience reach both locally and nationally, discover how APSE Approved Partner Roadvert’s cutting-edge technology can create much-needed extra revenue for your local council by clicking here.

5. Industry Supplier Developments

During the coffee and lunch breaks, delegates had an opportunity to view the latest cutting-edge street cleansing products. From electric compact sweepers with zero emissions to solar-powered, sensor-equipped bins, delegates were able view and explore all the market-leading products on display and discuss the latest technological developments with our excellent exhibitors.

6. Developing and Growing Volunteers throughout a pandemic

Eddie Curry, Head of Public Realm at Nottingham City Council, opened Session Two talking about the importance of ‘Clean Champions’ to maintaining the cleanliness of the local area. Nottingham Clean Champions was set up in 2017 to encourage residents to take an active role in their community and take control of litter in their neighbourhood.

Mr Curry went on the explain the measures his team had put in place to develop and grow these vital volunteers throughout the pandemic. The approach to maintaining a sustainable volunteering force involved employing a volunteer coordinator and two interns dedicated to managing the volunteers permanently.  With regards to keeping the volunteers abreast of the latest developments, Nottingham used fortnightly zoom meetings, quarterly meetings, newsletters and Facebook groups. As a way to further boost moral and maintain high levels of engagement, the council held a celebration event for the volunteers at Council House.

The results speak for themselves: the current number of Clean Champions is 5736 (3715 adults & 2021 juniors), and the current number of bags collected per month is approximately 1200 x 12 = 144000 annually.

7. Greening street cleansing

Next up to the podium, Stuart Russo, Senior Technical Officer at City of Bradford Council, looked in depth at how his streetscene service has played a vital part in helping to realise the local council’s climate emergency plans.

For Bradford, the key to advancing the green agenda lies in long-term planning and building in efficiency. Effective measures adapted by the Council and cited by Stuart in his presentation include:

  • Integrated service teams minimising travel to some locations e.g. parks and cleansing.
  • Cross-border agreements for difficult locations.
  • Formalising local community agreements to reduce travelling e.g. Friends Of groups.
  • Sensor-tech at key locations e.g. remote or ones prone to heavy use during good weather.
  • Maximising proactive cleansing rather than reactive complaints driven process.
  • Efficient route planning, not the quickest but the greenest route.
  • Revaluating staff start and finish locations, managing by output & low-code tech solutions.

8. ‘The Rochdale Approach’

Having scooped most improved performer in the Street Cleansing category at the APSE Performance Networks Awards 2021, delegates were treated to the secrets to the Council’s success. The Borough had previously struggled with its street cleansing service with some issues compounded by an ageing workforce, ageing sweeper fleet, abuse of litter bins and poor feedback.

Remedying these issues, and propelling the team to success at the APSE Performance Networks Awards, involved implementing a suite of changes. Amongst these improvements included a new fleet of sweepers, encouraging staff feedback, closer monitoring of external contractors, a targeting of repeat complaints, the trials of solar powered litter bins and closer working with enforcement.

9. The Coastal Plan: A flexible and multi-area approach to street cleansing

Our penultimate speaker for the day, Mike Cockburn, Assistant Director of Parks and

Environment at Wirral Council, was on hand to discuss the unforeseen benefits and opportunities arising from the pandemic, and how the experience of COVID has produced a fundamental change in how the Council’s Street cleansing service functions and operates.

The easing of restrictions in May 2020 generated major challenges to Wirral’s services and high footfall and service demand continued, particularly at coastal locations, throughout 2020 and 2021. These pressures led to the development of ‘The Coastal Plan’.

The multi service Plan was prepared to cover a full range of demand issues - vehicle and pedestrian movement, community patrol, public messaging, toilet provision, parking enforcement, young people engagement , environmental health and licensing. The street cleansing provision included increased litter patrols, additional bulk bins, BBQ disposal, supervisory support, extra litter bin servicing and collection.

The Plan played a key role in allowing the service to navigate the choppy waters of the pandemic. The Plan has also delivered several co-benefits including political recognition of the importance of street cleansing services, the embedding of a multi-service management approach and regeneration plans for Wirral’s key coastal locations.

10. What does the data tell us?

The final speaker of the day, Debbie Johns, Head of APSE Performance Networks, examined what APSE’s streetscene benchmarking data could tell us about the sector; namely issues surrounding structure, costs and staffing.

Debbie acknowledged that, as per APSE’s data, more councils are moving towards fully integrated or jointly-managed streetscene arrangements, and demographics generally show certain types of authority favouring this approach. However, larger councils are moving towards integrated solutions in order to meet austerity targets.

Debbie also touched on the latest developments surrounding APSE’s Land Audit Management System; a simple and effective performance measuring system for street cleansing teams. You can learn more about this system, and the benefits it can bring to your street cleansing service, here.

11. No room for complacency

If one had to identify just one main takeaway from the event, it would be that street cleansing service managers need to continually monitor and review their services if they are to deliver green, clean and safe streets. Certainly, from a public policy perspective, services which improve the quality of local neighbourhoods are extremely important to the general public. This was once again made abundantly clear within the findings of APSE’s 2021 Public Perceptions Survey carried out by Survation, showing that street cleansing was one of the most highly regarded services by UK residents. You can view the survey here.

As the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, APSE continues to support local authority street cleansing teams via our extensive network of over 250 local authorities. Through our training suite, advisory groups, research programmes and benchmarking service, membership of APSE can bring significant benefits to those who work in local government – from officers to directors to elected members to chief executives – by helping them comprehensively get to grips with the latest policy and technological developments.  

Each presentation from the event can be downloaded for free from the APSE website here.

Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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