Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What a load of rubbish - what price civic pride?

Today I had the honour of welcoming the judges of 'Britain in Bloom' who were visiting the newly revised south churchyard, as part of their assessment of the city's summer floral efforts. It was good to relate the story of the new gates, which are such a splendid feature of the work done, costing a third of a million, believe it or not.

Last week in the run up, I discussed with Steve, the city operations manager, the possibility of getting in someone from Cleansing to empty the north side churchyards of the rubbish jettisoned there by city users (and abusers) passing by. I received an email addressed to Steve and myself from their head of department saying no - declaring that church property is private, and they don't do private. This is the second time in three months the issue of the inadequacy of their division of the city into public and private has been an issue of contention. The last time was also about rubbish dumped in churchyards, which church volunteers clear up, and get penalised for if it is not handled properly.

There is no understanding of a church being a public body entrusted to and run by volunteers, and no concern about the churches' failures, for lack of support, to manage adequately their inherited public resources. Yet, if somebody royal comes to town security squads, if not the Protocol department, would insist on things being cleaned up for reasons of eliminating threats if not for pride. Where good will exists in city government it exists in patches. Indifference is more common.

I copied my riposte to this institutionalised meanness and indifference to the County Policy office and the Deputy Leader, who rebuked all involved for not working together to make the most of the environment in preparation for the Britain in Bloom judges visit. But it made no difference. Nothing was done by Cleansing. Steve was determined to come and pick up the litter himself, in the face of non-cooperation, but ran out of time.

I can't believe we pay people to ignore what is, after all, a small portion of the common good. So, the rubbish remains there, until one of us can get around to picking it up.

The same day a letter showed up in church from the city planning department, an invitation to visit an exhibition in the Old Library next door of plans to pedestrianise St Mary's Street. This is being done in haste in order to move to implement in haste. Many in business locally fear the impact of the proposals will be economic ruin, because of the added cost of getting goods in at unsocial hours, and restrictions on less mobile people going to pubs, shops and to St John's. Some say that buses will not only travel through a pedestrianised area unhindered, but at greater speeds, causing greater hazards to pedestrians. Crossing Greyfriars, also a major bus route, is very risky because there's no separation of traffic and pedestrians and controls are poor. Bollards get knocked over on corners drivers ant to cut. Sometimes there are people around too. How there's been no bloodshed, I don't understand.

And I didn't mention. The planning letter was addressed to

"The Manager/Occupant"
Hut in St John's Gardens
Working Street
City Centre

The hut is Grade Two conservation listed and houses gardener's tools. The garden, make-over newly completed, has been Council responsibility since 1982. So here they are - one Council department, communicating to another via the Post Office and the church. Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? Not exactly the sort of things to take pride in.

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