Ealing envirocrime

Associated Newspapers still writing rubbish about Ealing

Both today and yesterday Associated Newspapers, who publish both the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard, have been trying to make a story out of Ealing Council’s envirocrime activity. They obviously have a bit of a thing about this term which is really about cleaning up the neighbourhood as anyone who follows this blog knows – click on the Ealing envirocrime category right for background.

Yesterday the Mail on Sunday published this story with the headline “‘Envirocrime’ snoops paid £30,000 just to check your rubbish”. Their angle seems to be we are being wasteful and paying these “snoops” too much. Like much of the Associated Newspapers output this is rubbish. The MoS takes the £142K budget for expanding this service (see press release, dated 6th February) and divides by 4 to give some indication of what these officers are paid. Only this number includes what we call “on costs”, ie employer’s NI, pensions, heat and light, office rent, you name it. In any case we need pretty sophisticated people for these roles as they work pretty much on their own in a ward meeting the public and businesses and helping to clean the place up, for instance by ensuring that businesses handle their rubbish properly, derelict land is cleared, street cleaning is done properly, graffiti is cleaned, plus a whole long list of other jobs. Also these people are going to be working in London where the cost of living is very high.

Today the Standard carries a shorter version with the headline “‘Bin bag police’ to target the rubbish rebels”. The Standard knows full well that the envirocrime team does not persecute hapless residents putting out their rubbish. The team chase people who repeatedly mess the place up but that is not the story that the Standard wants to print so they are happy to print rubbish. So-called journalist Alex Stephens is the latest rubbish journalist from the Standard to cover this story. His skill set clearly encompasses cutting down yesterday’s news story to fill a blank space.

I can’t imagine what the Mail on Sunday told Isitfair’s Christine Milsom to make her say this:

They are being heavy-handed. We are living in a world where everything we do is watched and regulated. George Orwell has arrived. If you go to work early it is difficult to get it right with the rubbish.

If I were her I would feel that I had been manipulated into giving a quotable quote by the MoS. Nasty people.

Ealing envirocrime

Private equity driving flyposting

Alchemy Partners making a messYou might wonder why we keep getting flyposted by Bar 38 in Hammersmith (see photo taken yesterday of two Bar 38 posters taken yesterday at junction of South Ealing Road and Little Ealing Lane).

Private equity shops drive their businesses hard to make cash – why not? I have no problem with that until they think it is OK to mess our neighbourhood with flyposting to pull in the punters.

I visited Bar 38 twice in February to complain about this and again yesterday. I have taken down the posters and sent the photo to our envirocrime officer.

Jon MoultonThe Bar 38 chain of bars is currently part of the Tattershall Castle Group.

They in turn are owned by well-known private equity shop Alchemy Partners led by Jon Moulton pictured right. I have written to Moulton to ask him to stop this.

Ealing envirocrime

Fisking Widdup

Here is my response to Ellen Widdup’s e-mail.

Widdup reckons that:

  • I have implied she cannot do her job.
  • I have questioned her professionalism.
  • I have slated her abilities as a reporter.

She is right although maybe I would say she hasn’t done a very good job rather than she cannot do it! I called her story “ridiculous”. I reported that one of her statements was “utter garbage”. I questioned the standard of journalism and fact checking by all papers that covered the story. I referred to Widdup as a “so-called journalist”.

I am entitled to call her story ridiculous because it is very far from the truth as I shall demonstrate.

In her story she claimed: “Cameras will be installed around the borough before the change in collections from weekly to fortnightly.” In Ealing we had 10,274 people go to the trouble to complete a consultation questionnaire which asked people about 2 weekly collections. The response was so negative that on 12th February the council issued a press release that quoted council leader Jason Stacey as saying:

It is essential that when you run consultations that you listen to what people tell you. As a result, I am happy to confirm here that there will be no move to a fortnightly collection and we will add plastics to our household recycling service later in the year.

Widdup’s statement was utter garbage and she could have got her facts straight with a cursory look at recent Ealing press releases.

The germ of this story was the following quote from last month’s Around Ealing:

To catch vandals and envirocriminals, cameras disguised as anything from tin cans to house bricks will instantly email images to the council’s CCTV control centre.

The quote came from an article on page 9 that dealt exclusively with crime. To link this with domestic waste collection is to simply defy the truth.

Around Ealing Page 9 - Click through to PDF

The following statements from the Standard article were just plain wrong:

“Council war on residents who put out rubbish on wrong day”

“A London council is to use hidden cameras to catch residents who leave rubbish out on wrong day.”

The article mis-represents envirocriminals defining them as “those who leave out black bags when they should not or allow the contents of their bins to spill out on the pavement.”

Widdup was clearly impatient with the Ealing comms people last week. I am told that she was given a statement by them that stuck to the facts. These facts did not make much of a story so she kept chipping away in the hope that she could magic one out of thin air. Apparently she feels that Ealing Council is obliged to meet her deadlines and that if it tries to scotch her story by keeping schtumm then she is exonerated from her responsibility to check facts. She is not.

Widdup confirms that she did not talk to Will Brooks, portfolio holder for Environment and Transport. It is funny how she was able to quote him as saying: “anyone who broke the rules on collection would be considered to be a fly-tipper”. As far as I am aware Councillor Brooks has never said or written any such thing. Indeed he called the Standard’s news editor to clarify this so-called quote and they refused to take his call. Brooks has e-mailed the Standard twice and failed to get a response. I challenge the Standard to explain the provenance of this quote.

Widdup shows her ignorance of modern local government by misnaming Ealing’s Transport and Environment Scrutiny Panel a committee. If she had picked up on this subtle distinction she might have noticed that Councillor Vivendra Sharma is an opposition councillor and so perhaps not best placed to be a source for the purposes of fact checking. She claims that Sharma corroborated her story. In fact his quote does not. It is clear that he is merely commenting on the story that he has been given. He is quoted as saying:

I predict a lot of complaints about this method of catching litter louts. It is possible that many will question the motives of using CCTV and feel it is an infringement of privacy. Everyone realises that fly-tipping is an issue which needs dealing with and that putting your rubbish out early or leaving bags split open can encourage a rat problem, but I think there may be better ways of approaching it.

Judge for yourself.

Before I sign off I will just give Widdup a short lesson in defamation. Slander usually refers to a verbal defamation and libel is refers to written defamation. Nothing is defamation if it is true unless the facts are organised to give a misleading impression. I stand by what I say. It is true.

Ealing envirocrime

They don’t like it up ’em!

You may remember that Evening Standard journalist Ellen Widdup is the one that managed to get a front page byline with her “Spy cameras in tins of beans” story last Tuesday (see previous posting). Now she has written to me asking me to delete that posting.

Fat chance.

When I got her e-mail yesterday the immortal words of Dad’s Army’s Corporal Jones sprang to mind. The second and penultimate paragraphs are very funny. The middle three are the rambling self-justification. Here is what she said:

I am writing to you regarding to your blog entry (posted below):

The reason for my correspondance (sic) is that I resent your implication that I cannot do my job and the slur on my professionalism. Clearly you are entitled to voice your opionion (sic) on the content of the Evening Standard article but I do not believe this should extend to slating my abilities as a reporter.

You do not know the background to how I came across this story so perhaps it would be an idea to fill you in so you can make a more educated comment on the content of the piece. The story was originally in the Mail on Sunday (prior to its appearance in the Standard) and the paper quoted directly from your own council magazine which read “To catch vandals and envirocriminals, cameras disguised as anything from tin cans to house bricks will instantly email images to the council’s CCTV control centre.” It also said that a council spokeswoman (from your press office at Ealing) had confirmed that “envirocriminal” extended to people who fail to put their bin out on the right day.

I needed to confirm the facts of this story before we ran anything so I telephoned your press office and spoke to an officer* about the content of the Mail on Sunday piece and asked for clarification on the word “envirocriminal” and for more information on what the council had proposed. She said she would get back to me. I then called her on another two ocassions (sic) and each time she failed to respond to my questions or meet my deadlines.

I was therefore forced to find an alternative method of confirming or denying the substance of the Mail on Sunday article. I tried to call Will Brooks but there was no response so I went through the list of councillors sitting on the Transport and Environment Committee until one of them answered my phone calls. That happened to be Virenda (sic) Sharma. Mr Sharma confirmed the story was true and gave me all the background information I needed to write the story. I had no reason to doubt that what he was telling me was true. I may also point out at this point that, at no stage, has Mr Sharma, complained that he has been misquoted or denied what he told me on that day. With this knowledge, I hope you can no[w] (sic) vent your anger elsewhere. Perhaps you would like to criticise your own incompetant (sic) press office who fail to respond to press queries of an urgent nature? Or perhaps you should speak to Mr Sharma because clearly he has a different understanding of the meeting than you do?

Either way I ask you to remove this entry to your blog immediately. It constitutes a slanderous attack on my abilities as a reporter and if it is not removed, you will be hearing from my lawyers.

Please confirm you have received this email. I look forward to hearing from you.

I will be taking her statements apart later but I thought that some of the people who wasted a lot of time last week trying to damp down her inaccurate and silly story might enjoy her making a fool of herself. More later.

*Note I edited out the name of an officer here as I don’t want to involve one of Ealing’s employees in my spat with a journalist.

Ealing and Northfield Ealing envirocrime

Pound makes a fool of himself

Local MP Steven Pound makes a total fool of himself this morning commenting on the silly baked bean story in the Gazette. He says:

I think that it is a good idea that has been spoilt by bad planning and execution. The council had a duty to explain this to people before they did it. Instead of being secretive and surreptitious they should have been upfront and honest and people would have supported it. Whoever came up with the idea of putting cameras in tins of baked beans needs to come up with 57 reasons why to convince me.

It is probably fair to say that Pound will not have studied the Tory local election manifesto for Ealing in detail. If he had he would have found the following statement, in bold, under the heading “Graffiti and Flytipping”:

A Conservative run Ealing Council will take all measures, including CCTV operations in known problem areas, to catch those responsible for graffiti and fly tipping. We will adopt a policy of prosecution in all cases and will press for the heaviest fines to be imposed upon those responsible.

The council doesn’t need 57 reasons it has a mandate.

Pound should know that the reason the baked bean hare started running was due to a line in the March issue of Around Ealing, a council publication that is delivered to every home in the borough. The prominent article on page 9 about community safety, with two pictures of CCTV cameras, said:

To catch vandals and envirocriminals, cameras disguised as anything from tin cans to house bricks will instantly email images to the council’s CCTV control centre.

To call the council’s approach secretive and surreptitious is plain wrong. The council has absolutely been upfront and honest and people do support the cameras as a result.

The five quotes at the bottom of the article from real people were much more sensible than anything Pound said:

  • I think it is a good idea, Anita Gaida
  • In one way they are good, but on the other hand it is a bit sad, Matt Stollar
  • There is definitely something in it, John Clancy
  • I think it is a good idea, Gulaid Abdi
  • I think it is a great idea, very creative, and I am very happy to see them doing it if it will help the problem, Martina Drury

I guess Pound making a fool of himself is not a first.

Ealing and Northfield Ealing envirocrime

Rubbish wind up

Sun's CCTV camera disguised as baken bean tin pictureI choked on my cornflakes this morning when the august Radio 4 Today programme told me that the Sun and Mail were reporting that Ealing council was thinking of using spy cameras to persecute the good people of Ealing. What a load of pants.

Yesterday the Standard carried a ridiculous story that spy cameras were to be used to harass people putting out their bin bags. No, the borough is already using CCTV to catch persistent fly-tippers. Back in June I reported that in Northfield ward:

Some of the flytippers will be in for a nasty surprise over the next few weeks as David [our envirocrime protection team leader] has got the use of a mobile camera. We should be seeing some mugshots soon.

Shortly after pictures of offenders who had been fly-tipping on the side roads off Northfield Avenue appeared in Around Ealing – hardly covert.

The Standard story talked about the cameras being used to police a move to 2 weekly collections. Utter garbage. We asked people about this during our recent waste consultation and not surprisingly the response from people was so negative that the Conservative group, which is committed to actually providing the services people want, would not dream of going to two weekly collections.

As I found on my Southall tour last week we have some people who really mess up the neighbourhood with fly-tipping. We will be using cameras to trap these people. We will not clean up Ealing by running around after these people with a van picking up their mess. We need to change their behaviour and with fly-tippers that means catching them and prosecuting them.

The Mail story is a straight copy of the Standard story – fair enough as they are sister papers from Associated Newspapers. The Sun story has simply lifted all the quotes out of the Standard article and randomly phoned up an Ealing resident called Danny Christie at some ungodly hour of the night to get a quote. You can judge the standard of the journalism and fact checking by the fact that Labour’s councillor Sharma has had a sex change according to the Sun. Maybe Sharma will make the News of the World on Sunday. The so-called journalist at the Standard is called Ellen Widdup – wind up surely?

Ealing envirocrime

Southall walkabout

Back from my holiday on Sunday I flipped through the Gazette only to find a whole page devoted to their “Clean-up Southall Campaign” complete with quotes from Southall councillors Gurcharan Singh and Kamaljit Dhindsa. Having been in Southall a only couple of weeks before I was not sure I believed Singh’s prescription “we need more resources to solve the problem”. The new council is pouring more resources into the environment in Southall but more is required than just council spending. Cllr Dhindsa’s diagnosis also seemed a bit weak:

A lot of new arrivals coming into Southall are not aware of how rubbish is cleared here, and also about recycling. In some parts of the world people clear out their rubbish by chucking it into the street, and when new arrivals come here they don’t realise that it is wrong to do that here.

Only on Tuesday these councillors were voting against a budget that included:

  • an increase to the street cleaning budget of 75%
  • an extension of street cleaning in Southall from 8pm to 10 pm
  • an extension of zone 1 (continual cleanse) down Western Road to the borough boundary
  • many of the roads in Southall moving from a weekly to a twice weekly cleanse.

I went to look for myself.

In general the public realm looked pretty good:

Southall Park

Southall Park looked lovely in the sunshine

Southall Park Loos

The new loos looked clean and well-maintained

Southall lights and cameras

New street lights and safety cameras

Southall bin

Newish bins with bin bags in place

New street sign

New street signs

Some of the roads and pavements could have looked better, as could most in the entire borough. The last Labour administration let the budget for streets fall to £1 million per annum. The new administration immediately increased this to £1.5 million on election last year and will maintain this level of spending this year and into the future. It will take many years though to undo the damage caused by Labour to our roads.

I spotted four fly tips at the ends of Beaconsfield Road, Hortus Road, Kingston Road and Featherstone Road and another one halfway down Havelock Road opposite the Gurdwara. Is it really new arrivals doing all this or is it long-time residents and businesses who simply don’t want to clear up after themselves? The most spectacular flytip was the one in Kingston Road which was just by the back door of a food business. Dumposaurus Dumpsters Austin TX would eagerly provide dumpster rental to them.

Kingston Road fly-tip

I reported all five to the the council’s customer services desk on 020 8825 6000 this morning. Any member of the public can do this. Clean-up Southall? Yes! Pick up the phone! It is a shame that the Gazette’s feature, covering one whole page, did not not take the opportunity to advertise this phone number.

The real problem I saw was in the private rather than the public realm. In my short walkabout I came across eight envirocrime cases where local businesses or landlords are simply not complying with the law and using public spaces to run their businesses and as dumping grounds. These are not hapless newcomers that don’t know any better but cynical businessmen who want to make more profit by exploiting the environment.

Case 1


Ruby’s Food and Wine one the Uxbridge Road seem to think it is OK to put out their overflowing dumpsters and cage trolleys on the footpath

Case 2

Roshni Restaurant

The Roshni restaurant on South Road seem to be quite happy to sublet the footpath outside

Case 3

Alley behind South Road

The landlord who owns the alley behind South Road (entrance St Joseph’s Drive), and the tenants who use it every day, need to police their own private property

Case 4


It looks like the Skylark travel agency on The Crescent are putting out their commercial waste at the wrong time

Case 5

The Crescent open space

Which businesses are putting their dumpsters on The Crescent Road Open Space?

Case 6

State Bank of India

The State Bank of India on The Green seems to be incapable of keeping its grass free of litter

Case 7

Private land adjacent to Dominion car park

The landlord of the private land to the right of the Dominion car park needs to clean it up

Case 8

Sira Super Store

Sira Super Store on King Street is totally taking the Mickey with a fork lift and 4 cage trolleys on Church Avenue and bags and crates alongside the store

All eight of these envirocrime cases have been reported to the Southall envirocrime area manager this morning. Any member of the public and certainly any of the 15 Labour councillors in Southall can do this too. As David Cameron says: “We are all in this together”.

We have similar issues, although perhaps not as many, in both South Ealing Road and Northfield Avenue in my ward. Councillors and residents just have to keep on reporting these things to the council – you can also have a dramatic effect by just talking to businesses yourself directly. For instance, I worked with residents of Airedale Road on a short campaign and persuaded a butcher to stop leaving his meat-filled dumpster on the street over the weekend. Let these businesses know that they won’t get your custom if they mess the place up.

Ealing envirocrime

Rowan’s at it again

Yesterday I was in Southall doing a bit of research. I came across evidence that Rowan’s, a licensed business near Kew Bridge in the borough of Hounslow, were at their old fly-posting tricks again. I saw one poster at the end of Southbridge Way, one at the end of St Joseph’s Drive and four on the junction of the Uxbridge Road and South Road.

Rowan's fly-posting again

I wrote about these people back in October. Then it was 18 yellow paper posters that identified their two-bit business. This time they have gone anonymous. A quick call to the number given and a woman told me that she represented Rowan’s and that she would have a word with their marketing agency, AK Marketing. What a load of rubbish.

I took down 18 of their signs last time and delivered them to their premises along with a friendly warning to lay off. This time I have asked Ealing envirocrime enforcement to go after them with Penalty Charge Notices and Hounslow licensing to review their licence on the grounds that they are causing a public nuisance.

Ealing envirocrime

Fly-posting DJs messing up west London

Hammersmith Palais being anti-social

I have been working with our envirocrime team and their equivalent in Hammersmith and Fulham to try to reign in the people who are messing up our streets with plastic sign boards tie-wrapped to lamposts. I have personally visited Bar 38 in Hammersmith twice in February to berate them about their signs but for the last three Fridays the running has been taken up by the Hammersmith Palais. Their posters appeared at the junction of South Ealing Road and Little Ealing Lane today and at just about every junction down South Ealing Road and back down the A4 into Hammersmith. I must have seen at least 50 of them during my drive to work and this is only a small sample of the total.

The picture above shows three posters at the junction of Bond Street and the Broadway, taken by Ricky Wright our envirocrime protection officer for Northfield. Two fixed penalty notice were issued by Ricky today to both the venue and the promoter of their club night. I have to say though that £50 penalties are not going to change this behaviour.

Ealing envirocrime

Another dispatch from the envirocrime frontline

Unique Food and Wine

Northfield’s envirocrime protection officer, Ricky Wright, has been pursuing businesses that make a mess of South Ealing Road (see previous posting). Unique Food and Wine at 142 South Ealing Road picked up a £50 fixed penalty notice on Friday for not managing their rubbish properly.

Northfield residents can help with the campaign too. If you use the shops in South Ealing Road then make a point of talking to the shop keepers and asking them what they do with their rubbish and what they are doing to help keep up the neighbourhood. They will be wealthier in the end if South Ealing Road looks nice. They will certainly end up poor if you withdraw your custom so let them know that you expect high standards on South Ealing Road.