Keeping tabs on our clean-up army

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A SOUTH Tyneside union leader has pledged to keep a “close eye” on the progress of a new approach to street cleaning in the borough.

A 117-strong team has been created for a back-to-basics approach to tackling anti-social behaviour, street cleaning, dog fouling, lighting repairs, litter and fly tipping.

It has been achieved through the amalgamation of council staff and South Tyneside Homes workers.

The new way of working is through a “Handy Estates” team, which responds quickly to clean up hot-spots, and staff who carry out the daily cleaning of the borough’s 18 shopping areas.

But the merger has resulted in the loss of 33 posts, achieved through voluntary redundancies.

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison of South Tyneside, supported members who were made redundant as a result of the radical re-think. He believes the new approach is innovative but says it’s much too early to judge it a success or failure.

He said: “When this was first announced last June we were concerned at the loss of 33 jobs across housing, community safety and street cleaning.

“There was intensive work to support our members at the council and South Tyneside Homes. It was a very difficult process to create this new service, and staffing was reduced from 150 to 117.

“The question is if the service can cope, given that reduction, and maintain services. It’s very unusual for an arms-length management company to take over a mainstream service such as street cleaning, and we hope it’s a success, but we have concerns.

“It’s early days. The key thing is to continue discussions with management, and get the shift pattern system right. We will be keeping a close eye on its progress.”