Calls for stronger action to tackle drugs litter, graffiti and dog poo

An example of drugs litter elsewhere in the country
An example of drugs litter elsewhere in the country

A Green Party councillor has hit out at a ‘complacent’ response to calls for stronger action on tackling drugs litter, graffiti and dog poo within the Lewes district.

Speaking this week, Cllr Johnny Denis (Ouse Valley and Ringmer) criticised Lewes district councillors for rejecting four Green Party motions.

The motions had been put forward at a full council meeting on Monday (February 25), but were rejected after opposition from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Denis said: “[The motions] were all on those core services that people measure their council against.

“How well do they clear up litter? How well do they deal with dog poo? How well do they deal with the lowering of the tone of a neighbourhood because of graffiti and things like drug litter that people just want to know is going to be dealt with properly.

“These motions were put forward because that is what people have been saying to us. We have had a local campaigner, Zoe Nicholson, who has been going really hard on this because she has spoken to a lot of residents across Lewes who have raised these issues.

“All we had last night was the lead member saying ‘we are doing it all’ and we had the opposition lead Sarah Osborne actually saying it was unnecessary to do anything more.

“That is galling, because clearly if people are raising issues then we are not doing enough. They are such important things to deal with if we want to get all services right for our residents.

“It is complacent to say what we are doing is enough.”

The four motions included a proposal from Tony Rowell (Green – Lewes Priory) to set aside up to £50,000 ‘to devise and implement a strategy that will look at education, prevention, extra bins and extra staff to reduce and, if possible, eliminate the reliance on volunteers to keep Lewes district clean and tidy’.

Meanwhile Cllr Denis’ motions called on the council to: adopt a strategic approach to reducing drugs litter and refuse by encouraging residents to report problem areas where the council would prioritise its resources; and introduce further measures to reduce dog poo waste in public places.

His final motion called on the council to reduce graffiti by encouraging reporting and support the setting up of creative graffiti spaces, where graffiti can be painted legally.

All four motions came in for criticism from Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors, who argued they failed to take into account the work already taken by the council.

Speaking on Cllr Rowell’s motion, the council’s lead member for environmental impact Isabelle Linington (Conservative) said: “You are asking for £50,000 to devise and implement a strategy, but we already have a strategy.

“Neighbourhood First play an important part in promoting an anti-litter message and can put enforcement measures in place.

“You mentioned schools, part of [the waste and recycling engagement manager’s] job is working with schools in the district.

“The educational work includes going to schools, leading student workshops and promoting recycling and anti-littering messages. Students and teachers all love this and it is going to be expanded and continued during the spring and summer of this year.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Sarah Osborne criticised Cllr Rowell’s motion as ‘unnecessary’ because of the council’s existing work.

Cllr Osborne said: “I’m going to need to oppose to this motion, not because I don’t think it is a problem but because this motion is unnecessary.

“We already have a strategy in place. Neighbourhood First was launched recently, which is a truly excellent initiative and is really starting to produce excellent results.

“I also have an objection because this will add to our general spend and all councillors agreed that our reserves will only be used for spend and save schemes or one-offs.

“Yet your motion calls for extra staff which would add to our general spend. I can’t support that it is not fiscally responsible.”

Later in the meeting, Cllr Osborne also raised doubts about the evidence in support of legitimate graffiti spaces, saying it was unclear if such spaces reduced or increased graffiti in the surrounding area.