A NEW ‘estates army’ has been sent into battle to improve the lives of thousands of South Tyneside council house tenants.
Council chiefs have created a 117-strong team for a back-to-basics approach to tackling anti-social behaviour, street cleaning, dog fouling, lighting repairs, litter and fly tipping.
As reported earlier this week, cash-strapped South Tyneside Council is paying out £2m a year cleaning up litter, graffiti and abandoned waste, and the re-think involves council workers in the area management department forming a new high-profile team with South Tyneside Homes staff.
They are being encouraged to be more visible on borough estates – to become the “eyes and ears” of the public.
They will be equipped with mobile phones and cameras so they can gather evidence against fly-tippers, graffiti artists and anyone else who is spoiling the environment for others, with a view to building cases for prosecution.
South Tyneside homes looks after 19,000 council houses in South Tyneside.
The team aims to provide tenants with points of contact on the ground, meaning residents’ concerns are addressed by people who know the area in which they live.
The move follows a plea for tenants to help track down vandals scrawling ‘tags’ and slogans on public property at the expense of council tax payers.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said the new approach had created a “streamlined holistic approach to delivering services”, including resident involvement, estate management and street cleansing.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “The new housing and area management team brings together staff from across the council and South Tyneside Homes to take care of the overall management of the area.
“As this new approach looks at housing estates as a whole, beyond the management of homes and tenancies, issues that matter most to local people like having clean streets and tackling anti-social behaviour can also be dealt with more effectively. This will be of benefit for all residents.
“Bringing the teams together provides a more joined-up, flexible and efficient service and enables matters to be resolved through a single point of contact.”
The council spokesman added: “The new arrangements not only aim to provide a better service for council tenants, they also help to improve services for all residents with staff taking a more proactive approach to addressing wider estate issues such as fly-tipping, dog fouling and anti-social behaviour.
“The integration of street cleansing and estate maintenance functions also builds on the highly successful ‘Handy Estates’ pilot, which has been running across the borough since April 2013.
The radical rethink has received a thumbs-up from Coun Linda Hemmer, who represents Fellgate and Hedworth in Jarrow for UKIP.
She said: “This is what they are calling a much more joined-up approach with teams, rather than individuals, patrolling our estates.
“On my ward we previously had one street cleaner patrolling Calf Close, Hedworth and Fellgate. He’d clean up the pizza boxes and cans spread around the Hedworth shops, but it would be just as bad the next day.
“He did a great job, but he couldn’t do it all alone – now he has a team to support him. I like the fact that staff will have mobile phones and cameras to gather evidence, and I just hope that people will be prosecuted on the back of that. It’s a much more focused and proactive approach. The proof will be in the pudding, but I welcome it.”