Agenda item

Operational Services Update


The Assistant Director (Operations) provided the Committee with an update on Operational Services projects and performance. The Chair asked that the report be broken down into sections and Committee could ask questions after each section.


All the teams have continued to provide services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic including refuse and recycling, tending to parks and open spaces, burial services and maintaining council fleet.


Street Cleansing

Parks & Shopping Parades Litter Bin Replacement Programme: Roll-out of the recycling ‘on-the-go’ bins starting at Riverside Leisure Area and Woodlands Park. Together with St Andrews Gardens and Camer Park we will achieve a 168% increase in litter capacity. Litter housings for bulk bins have also been installed to increase capacity. The bins are covered in pictures of landmarks to promote the borough. In conjunction with increased bin capacity, enhanced emptying and litter picking at weekends there has been an improvement in litter management across our open spaces.


Binfrastructure Grant Funding: Following a grant of £13,180.40 towards our shopping parades litter bin replacement programme, shopfronts at 17 locations across the borough will receive new bins as part of the improvement programme. This will increase bin capacity and allow for recycling.


Parks and Town Centre Litter Campaign:  This had been delayed due to Covid-19 but bespoke signage has now been introduced into the town centre. It is very visual and hopefully will make people think more about how to dispose of their litter. Different campaigns will be used across the borough. There is also a campaign with a rural focus as well as a bespoke campaign for Perry Street and the Hive where littering is high e.g. – “Welcome to the Hive, help us keep your area clean and tidy”.


The Assistant Director (Operations) and Waste Projects & Compliance Officer responded to Members comments/questions:


·         There is a community spirit. We have a very good Street Champion programme and a lot of people are litter picking, cleaning up streets and working with us and this is across the borough

·         The dog bins are already being looked at as some are rusty. We have moved to a new model. We are also looking at bins along main roads. We are only using certain types of litter bin across the borough.

·         168% is the total increased capacity over the four sites but against the base line all four sites are increased above 100%

·         The shopping parade at Higham is challenging in the way it is laid out. We have worked closely over the last three years with Higham Parish Council to install litter bins where they are appropriate but we will look at installing some bins which also have a recycling element. We will take the comments on board and see what can be done

·         In the more urban areas we will have mixed bins for litter and dog waste. People don’t like dog bins outside their houses but don’t mind litter bins. It isn’t cost effective having two bins next to each other so we are concentrating dog bins in the open spaces and the streets mainly have litter bins

·         There are signs on the recycling bins stating that it is for cardboard, plastic bottles and paper. When the crew empty them they do look in them as we don’t want cross-contamination. There has been some analysis over the last week in St Andrew’s Gardens where in the past half of the sacks were being rejected, now only 29% are being rejected. Once we have finished collecting data we will consider installing more signage. We are putting a new system in place where we will be able to record fill levels from individual bins which will indicate how these are being used and the success of the investment in them

·         We are ensuring the signage on the bins is suitable for anyone with sight impairments

·         The slot for the recycle bin housing is small so as to stop people putting black bags in them causing contamination


New 15 Tonne Scarab


Investment was made earlier this year on a new mechanical 15 tonne sweeper, double the size of the previous vehicle and is used on main routes and rural areas freeing up the smaller machine to do more frequent sweeping in the smaller streets. The new machine only has to tip-off once per day saving on fuel and increasing tonnage collected.


Deep Clean Machine


We continue to use the deep clean machine to remove chewing gum and grime from the pavements within the town centre and shopping parades.


The Assistant Director (Operations) responded to Members comments/questions:


·         We can have a look at deep cleaning in the Higham area but we do concentrate on high footfall areas such as the town centre as it is time-consuming

·         Over the last two to three months we have managed to increase frequency of sweeping and hopefully we can continue that moving forward. We have a raft of schedules depending on the road. If you live in New Road you will probably have the sweeper four times a day, seven days a week. Some areas need very little sweeping

·         Deep cleaning machine is  used in the town more than other areas but we are working around shopping areas such as Perry Street even moving out to Meopham, Vigo and Higham

·         The sweeper can cause tailbacks of traffic but we will have a look at plotting routes to avoid peak times

·         Our main focus is to continue the refuse and recycling services on the days we say. A number of authorities have suspended garden waste and recycling but other than the disruption caused by the  snow earlier in the year we have managed to deliver that service. When staff have had to isolate we have prioritised waste and taken staff off street cleansing to assist. We are now starting to get all staff back and so we will increase sweeping in most parts of the borough

·         With Covid there are still a lot of people working from home hence cars being parked on the roads so it makes it difficult to road sweep between them. Some people are reluctant to move their cars but hopefully as more people return to work that should help. With increased parking we do have issues accessing some roads with the dustcarts

·         We are doing a trial next week on the Dickens Estate to ask people to move their cars to one side of the road then the other so we can sweep the road channels better.




To date 60 Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued and one prosecution has taken place. We had success recently at Brookvale where 6 vehicles were removed with Police assistance. As an authority we won’t accept fly-tipping and we will take action against people who think fly-tipping is appropriate. We have regular joint meetings with Housing and the Enforcement Team and working much closer together on reporting.


Street Cleansing Improvements – Bartec Collective


We are introducing the Bartec system to the street cleansing service which will enable us to remove paper schedules and everyone will have a Tablet and once work is completed it is marked off. This will allow Managers to monitor work throughout the day and immediately allocate work to a crew rather than having to phone or put through a paper job ticket the next day. Customers will be able to receive real-time updates on work.


We are currently going through the process of mapping our litterbins. We want to have an “amazon service” whereby if someone reports something they will be able to get an update on what’s happening.


Members’ made the following comments:


·         The council’s biggest weakness is feedback to residents whether it’s planning enforcement, street cleaning etc. People report it but don’t know what happened as a result so Bartec will be progress. The Chair felt it would be useful to see Bartec in operation

·         Delighted to see the amount of enforcement capacity around fly-tipping particularly when the tip was closed and we saw an increase in fly-tipping around the borough. Also pleased to see an increase in prosecutions

·         Some authorities have brought in amnesty days for hotspots and residents can leave rubbish out and it will be collected free of charge. The Chair advised that it had successfully been done in Northfleet with local groups, the church and the scouts so it is something we should consider

·         All Members would agree that the results we are seeing, particularly on enforcement, are second to none and credit should be given to our communication colleagues who have shown that councillors and the council are doing a lot of work in encouraging residents to report fly-tipping


The Assistant Director (Operations) responded to Members comments/questions:


·         The Enforcement Team sits under the CSU so we don’t have a figure on how many of the FPNs are paid but we can get this information

·         There isn’t a backlog in bulky collections but an increase in demand. This month we have done an extra 80 collections as the crews have been working on Saturdays. Fridge freezers used to be 24 collections every two weeks, we are now doing 30 collections three out of four weeks of the month. We are trying to get that down to a couple of weeks maximum but it is having willingness of the staff to work Saturdays

·         We have had amnesty days in the past but we ended up with vans turning up with rubbish and it discriminates against those who are paying

·         Licenses are easy to apply for and they are administered by the Environment Agency. We have jointly signed a letter with the Kent Resource Partnership to the Magistrates saying that the fines are not high enough and that has been co-signed by a lot of partnerships across the country. There is a lot of discussion about licenses and a lot of publicity about rogue traders. We are pushing this out through social media and the website link to the Environment Agency allows you to check if someone is registered. Licensed traders who don’t have enough drivers are sub-letting to unlicensed traders


Refuse and Recycling


The council has achieved a recycling rate of 43.5% in the year 2020-21, an increase of 1.0% compared to 2019-20. An additional 3,826.5 tonnes of household waste was collected in 2020-21, an increase of 13.1% compared to 2019-20.


We are looking at ways to get people to reduce residual waste and hopefully with residents going back to work that will help. Contamination has dropped by 3% as we did a lot of work through social media to teach people about contaminated waste. The plastics campaign will continue into next year and is funded by RECOUP (a plastics recycling charity).


Buzz Garden


This is around climate change. Works have continued in Windmill Gardens with additional planting and wild flower areas and we are looking at some wild flowers in the cemeteries to attract bees.


Cemetery Service


Introduced set funeral times as a result of Covid to enable us to manage increase in demand. We are making improvements to Northfleet Cemetery which is the only one used for new burials and have removed the roundabout, straightened the road and created passing bays.


Vehicle Workshop at Brookvale


Installing a MOT facility so we can MOT all GBC fleet and third party vehicles.


Employment opportunities


The workshop has a strong history of training staff and three out of four staff are former apprentices. We have two apprentices at the moment. We have been talking to North Kent College about providing additional work placements to aid the professional development of other local young persons. We maintain everything from a strimmer to a dustcart and not many workshops do that variety of work and anyone who comes to us gets a real grounding.


Members commented as follows:


·         We welcome the focus on apprenticeships particularly with the current level of youth unemployment

·         Thrilled to see the bee garden and work around the site on Windmill Hill, it is a key focal point on the hill

·         Very much welcome the investment that has gone into Northfleet Cemetery. It is great we are getting more grave space


The Assistant Director (Operations) responded to Members questions as follows:


·         Not sure if Members grant went towards the bee garden but do know that there was external funding and will look into that and get some signage on the Hill

·         There has been incidences where people have been locked in Gravesend Cemetery. It is locked because of anti-social behaviour. We will make sure we are more explicit about the times

·         It would be a great idea to have wild flowers on the roundabouts and verges as it would be good for the ecosystem but they are mostly KCC maintained. We can open up dialogue with them. We have been looking at verges we own to see if we can do something around wild flowers. This is something high on the agenda of the Climate Change Working Group

·         Some people think these wild meadows are just because we aren’t cutting grass and we are doing it for a purpose. However, it does take a lot of effort to maintain them. We can put some more information out there around why they are there and the benefits

·         We limit workshop apprentices to two so we can give them the right education as they have to be overseen. Over the last few years we have had six and all have continued to work for us. We are looking across all the disciplines at the depot, caretakers, cemeteries and offering a wide range of skills, teaching them to use hand tools such as strimmers and helping them with the discipline of getting up at 7am for work



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