Councils in tourist hotspots overwhelmed with litter problems

Ministers must fund councils properly to keep places clean and safe

Visitors flocking to UK beauty spots are creating vast piles of litter that are putting enormous pressure on councils and their overstretched workers, says UNISON.

The government must give proper financial support to ensure local authorities can maintain services and keep communities rubbish-free for everyone’s safe enjoyment, says the union.

With people grounded for the summer once again, many are staying at home or heading to UK holiday destinations to enjoy beaches, the countryside and parks.

But many popular public spaces are at risk of being swamped with waste as people dump food packaging, cans, bags, nappies, and even discarded swimming towels and body boards.

Dealing with the mess is putting extra pressure on councils when budgets are already under huge strain. It follows years of cuts and extra responsibilities caused by the pandemic, says UNISON.

The union is calling for the government to fund councils properly so they can keep local public spaces clean and free from the dangers of littering, such as stepping on broken bottles.

Huge cuts in council budgets over the past decade mean annual expenditure on waste collection has dropped by more than £200m since 2011 in England alone, despite population growth. Street cleaning in that same period has been cut by almost £300 million, according to UNISON figures.*

The union is also calling for everyone to do their bit by taking their litter home wherever possible, and at the very least be sensible by binning waste.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “More of us are rediscovering what the UK has to offer. But the litter left behind by others can ruin the experience.

“Ministers should make sure councils have the money they need to run all their services properly. The pandemic has shown how much our communities need effective public services.

“Members of the public also need to think about their actions. Everyone can and should play a part in cleaning up after themselves.

“Stretched resources are adding to the pressure on council staff who’ve gone above and beyond for the past year. They’re also having to bear the brunt of public anger when parks and beaches have been left in a terrible mess.”

Notes to editors
– Using local authority revenue expenditure figures published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government adjusted for inflation using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, private and community sectors.

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