INTENSE scrutiny of Wrexham’s street maintenance provision has prompted a council chief to warn that “things are going to get worse”.
Lead member for environment Cllr Bob Dutton faced criticism from members of the council’s homes, environment and communities scrutiny committee when a report on the authority’s Streetscene’s standards and performance was tabled at a meeting.
Councillors singled out dog fouling and grass cutting as major areas of concern and drew attention to figures which revealed there were nearly 4,500 reports from the public claiming their bins had been “missed” in the 2011-2012 period.
Cllr Dutton said in the current economic climate, with councils nationwide facing dramatic cuts in their budgets, authorities would be facing tough decisions in order to maintain services with less staff and less cash.
He said: “Over the next few years cuts are going to go on and things are going to get worse.
“Unfortunately environmental issues such as these are going to be a target as the cuts hit the frontline.
“We need to prepare ourselves for the worst because it’s going to happen.”
The stark warning came after councillors claimed insufficient grass cutting left communities looking shabby and neglected and put drivers and pedestrians at risk where grass levels obstructed the view at roadsides.
And the amount of dog fouling found in the county was labelled “a danger to our children”.
Cllr Alun Jenkins, who represents Offa, said: “I think we should keep a close eye on the problem of dog fouling in every ward.
“We need to have officers fully focused on it or we’re going to have an even bigger problem than we already have.”
Cllr Geoff Lowe of Acton said it was too soon after changes were made to the system to comment on whether the problem had got any worse or better.
But councillors called for more strict punishment for those who flout the rules and requested a report from officers to find out how many people were being fined.
Cllr Alan Edwards, for New Broughton, added: “We need to frighten people into picking it up with on-the-spot fines.”
Other points of debate included the maintenance of bus shelters, street furniture and lighting and toilet cleaning with the standards at Wrexham’s King Street bus station taking the full force of councillors’ frustrations.
Council officer Alan Guest said regular and consistent bin collections were a statutory requirement of local authorities.
Members of the committee were largely appeased on the bin collection front once it was explained the 4,500 “missed bins” worked out at one bin left behind for every 1,500 collected, but councillors still criticised the “consistency” and “equality” of grass cutting and dealing with dog fouling claiming some wards were prioritised over others.
Cllr Joan Lowe, who represents Penycae and Ruabon South, claimed her ward had been neglected while the lawns outside the council buildings were “always immaculate”.
She asked: “Why should some wards have two grass cuttings when others have had none?”
And Cllr Lowe added: “If absenteeism is that bad among the Streetscene team it needs to be sorted.
“Our estates are a mess and it needs to be tackled.”