Headlines: November 2nd, 2005

Residents in deprived neighbourhoods are getting lower standards of street cleaning and refuse collection services than residents in more affluent areas, according to research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This is in spite of the greater range and severity of problems they face, particularly regarding graffiti, litter, fly-tipping, and poorly maintained public spaces.Deprived neighbourhoods, with hard to look after features such as high-rise buildings and large open spaces, and higher than average population densities, are especially prone to environmental problems. However, local authorities do not routinely deploy services and resources which are sufficient to meet the needs. The report claims that this is due to difficulty in negotiating between these needs and the competing and well articulated demands from residents of better off neighbourhoods.

The study, by the University of Glasgow, found environmental services staff working in deprived neighbourhoods were overwhelmed by persistently high levels of rubbish and litter. This undermines the quality of their work. In contrast, in neighbourhoods with fewer problems, staff were better able to work effectively and knew that shoddy work was likely to be reported.

The research, based on a survey of 49 local authorities and detailed work in 4 areas, shows responsible residents living in deprived neighbourhoods, who might previously have been motivated to take good care of their surroundings, losing heart when environmental problems went unresolved.

The researchers suggest that local authorities should routinely enhance services, such as more frequent street cleaning, in the deprived neighbourhoods. It is argued that this can re-energise residents and frontline operatives, help to kick-start further improvements and begin to reverse the cycle of decline. Regeneration funding, such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, can also help local authorities to address the competing demands of poor and affluent neighbourhoods.