p2 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
Scoring the service 4
The locality 8
The council 8
The national context for streetscene 10
Streetscene services in Hounslow 10
How good is the service? 13
Are the aims clear and challenging? 13
Does the service meet these aims? 16
How does the performance compare? 34
What are the prospects for improvement to the service? 38
Ownership of problems and willingness to change 38
A sustained focus on what matters 39
Capacity and systems to deliver improvement 42
Integration of best value into day-to-day management 43
Documents reviewed 45
Reality checks undertaken 45
List of people interviewed 46
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p3
1 Hounslow is a unitary borough to the west of London. The population is 212,341 of
which approximately 35 per cent are from minority ethnic communities1; 140
languages are spoken in the borough.
2 The council is Labour led through a leader and Executive model of governance,
with 36 of the 60 seats. Fifteen seats are held by the Conservative opposition, five
by the Liberal Democrats, three by the Isleworth Community Group, and one by an
3 The council employs 7,017 staff across all services, and has a net expenditure
budget of just under £267.6 million for 2003/04.
4 The streetscene whole service inspection covers a range of services either directly
provided or managed by the newly formed Street Management and Public
Protection Department (SM&PP). Services within the scope of the inspection
included street cleansing, removal of abandoned vehicles, fly posting and graffiti,
refuse collection, recycling, highway maintenance and horticulture (including street
works, street lighting and street tree maintenance), highway enforcement, and
associated management and monitoring arrangements.
5 Streetscene services are budgeted to cost £18.6 million in 2003/04.
6 There is a mixed economy of service provision with a number of services provided
directly by the council and a number by external contractors.
Source: ONS Census 2001.
p4 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
Scoring the service
7 We have assessed the council as providing a ‘fair’, one-star service that has
uncertain prospects for improvement. Our judgements are based on the evidence
obtained during the inspection and are outlined below.
Scoring chart2: LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
Prospects for improvement?
‘a fair service that
Poor Fair Good Excellent has uncertain
8 We think the service is fair because:
there is high user satisfaction with recycling services reflecting the numerous
facilities available to the public. The council is a top quartile performer for
recycling/composting household waste;
there is high user satisfaction with refuse collection, which has just gained its
second chartermark. The number of missed collections is low;
street lighting defects are identified quickly with extended night patrols and
residents’ satisfaction with street lighting has risen over the last year;
the maintenance of principal roads is good and the council has a good track
record of utilising funding provided through Transport for London (TfL);
with the Heston pilot, the service has begun to:
reallocate resources to improve highway grounds maintenance; and
co-ordinate service delivery – refuse collection followed by street
cleaning and grass cutting.
highway maintenance of non-principal roads and footways is poor. It is a high
priority for users that we spoke to, but has not been a funding priority for the
council. There is currently a £30 million backlog in planned maintenance;
the standard of street furniture, particularly guard railing is poor;
there is low user satisfaction with street cleaning, partly due to the poor
standards of cleanliness in public open spaces adjoining the highway;
apart from refuse collection and street cleansing services and the Heston pilot,
service delivery is not co-ordinated and street inspection activities are not
The scoring chart displays performance in two dimensions. The horizontal axis shows how good the
service or function is now, on a scale ranging from no stars for a service that is poor (at the left-hand
end) to three stars for an excellent service (right-hand end). The vertical axis shows the improvement
prospects of the service, also on a four-point scale.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p5
there has been little enforcement activity to support management of illegal fly
tipping and littering. Enforcement activity combining the efforts of various
enforcement officers has been ad-hoc rather than programmed;
there are currently ten telephone access points to streetscene services
making it difficult for residents to contact the right person/section first time;
there are limited service standards to inform users of the range of services
provided and the standards they can expect.
10 We think the prospects for improvement are uncertain. Positive aspects include:
councillors have demonstrated commitment to addressing user concerns by
setting ‘business critical’ measures for a number of streetscene services;
councillors, management and staff are committed to the service. There are
positive working relationships with service providers to try and maximise use
the council has commissioned Waste Watch to review recycling
communication activity in order prepare a communication strategy and
increase participation by Hounslow’s diverse communities. There is an
ongoing programme to develop the recycling infrastructure;
re-zoning of refuse and litter picking rounds will allow greater co-ordination of
services so that recycling collections are followed by refuse collection and litter
picking. Litter picking rounds will then be co-ordinated with grass cutting
There are plans to transfer the two remaining major service areas to the call
centre by Christmas 2003. There will then be two telephone access points;
the new integrated street management IT system offers potential for further
there is lack of a long term vision and strategy for the service and a coherent
medium term action plan;
the pace of change in some key areas has been slow, for example,
addressing the disrepair of local roads, enforcement, access to services, and
introduction of publicised service standards;
funding for highway improvements has not been secured, and income
generation initiatives have yet to produce a positive outcome;
there are no contingency plans for managing additional demands on the call
centre, and implications of single status;
results of market analysis of waste collection arrangements are not yet known;
some key procurement decisions have yet to be made.
p6 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
12 To rise to the challenge of continuous improvement, councils need inspection
reports that offer practical pointers for improvement. In this context, the inspection
team makes the following recommendations:
Establish a vision and a medium term plan for the service with key
stakeholders. Define what this will mean in terms of improved service
delivery/outcomes that users will understand.
Simplify the service improvement plan and introduce project management
methodology to link key events, particularly contract management and
Develop contingency plans for:
managing additional demands on the call centre as customer service
activity transfers; and
managing the implications of single status.
Establish sources of funding to maintain local roads and footways.
Develop a more proactive street inspection regime including a framework for
co-ordination and targeting of enforcement activity.
Following the market analysis of waste collection arrangements, undertake a
robust options appraisal which can demonstrate competitiveness against the
best match of public, private and not for profit sectors. In particular, ensure
value for money and a service fit for purpose will be delivered; and
street cleansing and highways grounds maintenance are included within
Publicise streetscene services and associated service standards to help
manage public expectation.
Consider a review and potential re-design of business processes so that best
possible use is made of available resources and systems.
The Executive to ensure that the focus and pace of improvement in this vital
service is increased.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p7
13 We would like to thank the staff of Hounslow Council, particularly Lesley Rennie,
who made us welcome and who met our requests efficiently and courteously.
Dates of inspection: 8-12 September 2003
For more information please contact
Telephone: 020 7233 6400
Fax: 020 7233 6490
p8 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
14 This report has been prepared by the Audit Commission (the Commission)
following an inspection under Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999, and
issued in accordance with its duty under Section 13 of the 1999 Act.
15 The council is a unitary authority lying to the west of central London. The borough
covers an area of 5,642 hectares, and Heathrow Airport is close to its boundaries.
The rising population of the area is 212,341, living in 87,5603 households. Thirty
five per cent of the population are from minority ethnic communities, though this
figure rises to 52 per cent for children at the council’s schools4, and 140 languages
are spoken in the borough. On both GLA and council projections a number of
wards are projected to have over 50 per cent black and minority ethnic (BME)
population by 20115.
16 Unemployment in Hounslow stands at 5.6 per cent which is lower than the London
average of 6.6 per cent6, although average earnings in the borough are among the
lowest in London with many residents in low pay, low skill jobs. A great deal of the
employment in the borough is centred on Heathrow Airport and the local authority
itself. Local councillors therefore face significant challenges in managing council
services in this context. The area is ranked 99th out of 354 in the DTLR Index of
Deprivation7, indicating a higher than average level of deprivation.
17 There are currently approximately 7370 registered businesses within the borough.
18 The council comprises 60 councillors. The Labour party has control with 36 seats.
The Conservatives hold 15 seats, the Liberal Democrats 5, Isleworth Community
Group 3, and 1 is held by an Independent. Following a two year trial, the business
of the council is governed by a leader and Executive, with topic based and standing
overview and scrutiny all party panels.
19 To get closer to local communities, the council has five area committees that meet
regularly in their localities8. These consist of councillors and community
representatives and encourage resident involvement.
20 The council’s net expenditure budget for 2003/4 is just under £267.6 million with an
estimated capital fund of £61.89 million to support major projects (funded from
borrowing approved by the Government, capital receipts from the sale of assets,
Source: 1 April 2002 ODPM HIP return.
Source: DfES Schools in England 2002.
Source: Best Value Performance Plan 2003/04.
Source: Labour force survey data March 2001-February 2002.
Department of Transport and Local Regions (DTLR) – Index of Deprivation provides a measure of
deprivation based on a range of indicators including employment levels, quality of housing,
educational attainment and mortality rates.
Chiswick, Isleworth and Brentford, Heston and Cranford, Hounslow Central, West (Feltham, Bedfont
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p9
section 106 planning agreements, Government specific grant and contributions
21 The council has entered into a public service agreement (PSA) with the
government for the delivery of 12 ‘stretch’ targets to be achieved over the next
three years. The agreement runs from 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2006. A pump
priming grant of approx £963,000 has been made available by the Government.
The targets were identified to complement local and national priorities. Success in
meeting them will deliver approximately £6 million to the council as a performance
22 The council’s overall score for comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) in
2002 was ‘fair’ although the score for environmental services was low as this
reflected performance across a range of environmental services as well as the
findings of a previous streetscene inspection carried out by the Audit Commission
in March 2002.
23 Hounslow’s community plan was published in July 2002 and sets out an over-
arching strategic vision for the borough as agreed in close collaboration with key
partner agencies. The key objectives in the community plan are to seek to develop:
a safer community;
a healthier community;
an accessible community;
a thriving community;
a greener community; and
a creative community.
24 In May 2003, the Executive published its first Executive business plan and new
vision for Hounslow:
‘Hounslow Council is working in partnership to improve the quality of life and opportunities for
the people of the borough, and to celebrate diversity and build cohesion amongst our diverse
25 This was developed following publication of the Hounslow community strategy the
previous year, and sets out ten corporate priorities for the Executive. These
priorities express the Executive’s commitments to the residents of Hounslow,
setting out the council’s contribution to achieving the broader objectives of the
26 The Executive’s ten Priorities update and replace the council’s former seven
‘pledges’ and are:
promoting community cohesion and community safety;
children and lifelong learning;
supporting vulnerable people;
enhancing our environment;
sustainable mixed housing;
improving customer care;
better performance; and
p 10 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
resources for future improvement.
27 Each of these priorities are assigned to councillors of the Executive as portfolios.
The national context for streetscene
28 A key Government priority is to provide ‘A Better Quality of Life’ for all9. Strategies
to deliver this include sustainable waste management, developing an integrated
transport system and reducing road traffic accidents. These Government priorities
are supported at a regional level in London by strategies from the Mayor for
London, statutory targets and a raft of legislation.
29 Streetscene services are highly visible front line services, with street cleansing,
street lighting and highways maintenance among the few services which customers
automatically receive. They remain high public priorities nationally and locally and
as stated earlier form one of Hounslow’s key priorities - to ‘enhance our local
30 Hounslow is a waste collection authority and is currently part of a statutory waste
disposal authority – West London Waste Authority (WLWA), together with five other
west London boroughs. The disposal routes for waste are determined by the
disposal authority. Currently this disposal route is to landfill. WLWA itself needs to
develop a waste strategy that addresses national targets for non-landfill disposal.
Any changes in the current approach by WLWA could have significant effects on
Hounslow’s waste collection arrangements.
31 Waste services are guided by an expanding legislative and policy framework at a
European10, national11, regional12 and local level13. All of these support the
emphasis towards waste minimisation, re-use, increasing recycling levels and
32 The national waste strategy 2000 also sets recycling targets for each local
authority. Hounslow’s are currently 28 per cent by 2003/04 and 36 per cent by
33 Other directives that will soon become mandatory include the EU end of life vehicle
directive (the ELV directive) and the draft waste electrical and electronic equipment
(WEEE) EU directives.
34 Highway maintenance activities are guided by highways legislation including the
Highways Act and New Roads and Street works Act, the latter of which supports
greater co-ordination of street works.
35 Other key pieces of legislation impacting on equal access to services are the
Human Rights Act 1998, Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Disability
Discrimination Act 1995.
Streetscene services in Hounslow
36 In March 2002, the committee of the council agreed the streetscene best value
review (BVR) recommendations and creation of a new street management and
public protection (SM&PP) department to deal with all street related issues. Since
‘A Better Quality of Life’ – the government’s strategy for sustainable development.
European Union Landfill Directive.
National Waste Strategy 2000, DEFRA/Audit Commission performance indicators, Environmental
Protection Act 1990.
Mayor’s Draft Municipal Waste Management Strategy.
Unitary Development Plan (UDP), Local Agenda 21.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 11
this time, a head of department has been appointed and interim management
arrangements put in place pending agreement on the structure of the department
which was agreed by the Executive in February 2003.
37 The SM&PP structure comprises of three divisions:
street management division – responsible for all maintenance and new works
activities relating to the highway infrastructure and related operational
public protection division – responsible for waste management, business
regulation, pollution control and environmental safety; and
environmental direct services (EDS) division – the contracting arm which
delivers a range of street services and projects.
38 The streetcare services team within the street management division has four teams
responsible for co-ordinating and monitoring streetscene activities:
the highways maintenance team oversee repairs, street works and supervise
implementation of most traffic management schemes. They operate in five
areas mirroring area committee areas;
ten community environment officers oversee abandoned vehicles, highway
enforcement, graffiti and monitor street cleansing, refuse collection, recycling,
street tree and grounds maintenance;
the environmental projects team; and
the drainage, street lighting and structures team.
39 The waste management team within the public protection division is responsible for
the council’s waste strategy and its implementation, including the process of letting
contracts. This team is also responsible for managing budgets for Space Waye
Civic Amenity site and for waste minimisation and recycling initiatives.
40 Direct services covered by the inspection are as follows:
41 Street cleansing is contracted to EDS. Cleansing is delivered through a variety of
methods including hand barrows and mechanised sweepers, and involves regular
programmed cleansing of 250 miles of roads, 2,000 gullies and the emptying of 800
Graffiti and fly posting removal
42 The service is provided by the existing racist and offensive removal team provided
by the council’s catering direct services and currently cleans public property and
racist or offensive graffiti.
43 Removal of all abandoned vehicles including those considered hazardous and
posing a danger is undertaken by an external contractor. A free surrendered
vehicle service is also available to local residents.
44 The refuse service is delivered by EDS, providing edge-of-curtilage collection of
bagged refuse weekly from over 86,000 households. The council does not supply
refuse containers. Residential and commercial premises not serviced by the edge-
of-curtilage collection use bulk containers, such as paladins and Eurobins.
p 12 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
45 Trade refuse is collected weekly from over 1900 (25 per cent) businesses in the
borough. Plastic sacks are supplied to commercial customers where bulk
containers are inappropriate or not wanted.
46 The Tidy Town chargeable bulky item14 removal service is operated with collection
via an appointment system. Certain items are removed free of charge for disabled
persons or pensioners.
47 Clinical waste collection is provided by EDS using a dedicated vehicle. There is a
charge for commercial clinical waste but the service is free to the 42 householders
currently receiving the service. Customers receive a weekly scheduled collection.
48 The collection and disposal of hazardous waste (chemical and asbestos) is
undertaken by separate contractors respectively under a London-wide hazardous
waste collection and disposal contract operated by the Corporation of London on
behalf of 32 of the 33 London boroughs. Asbestos and chemicals are collected by
appointment from households, schools, registered charities, borough offices,
emergency services and private companies15.
49 The council’s multi-material kerbside collection scheme16 is operated by an external
contractor and uses dedicated teams and vehicles. Materials collected are sorted at
the kerbside into caged split vehicles. Outlets for the materials collected have been
secured by the contractor who retains the revenue from sales, while the council
retains the recycling credits.
50 Mini recycling sites are situated on housing estates managed by Hounslow Homes
so that residents can recycle paper, glass bottles and jars, and aluminium and steel
cans. The scheme includes both low and high rise flats.
51 There are 67 bring sites around the borough for residents to bring their newspapers
and magazines, glass bottles and jars, textiles, and steel and aluminium cans.
52 From May to November residents can purchase biodegradable green waste sacks
for a nominal price that are delivered and are then collected weekly.
53 The Space Waye Civic Amenity (CA) site also provides an extensive range of
recycling facilities for glass, newspaper and magazines, books, cardboard, cans,
textiles, shoes, foil and engine oil. In addition, there is a storage bay for green
waste and another for timber. Metals are segregated for salvage and there is a
storage point for used domestic fridges from which the CFC17 gas is extracted.
54 Free home composters are supplied to residents (one per household, subject to
55 White goods such as fridges and freezers are collected free of charge from
residents via a booking system.
Highway Maintenance, drainage and lighting
56 The council has a statutory duty, under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, to
maintain the highway in a safe and usable condition. It is responsible for the
Bulky household waste comprises furniture, domestic items, building materials, garden waste,
decorating materials and unwanted personal belongings.
Contract is managed by the Corporation of London on behalf of 32 out of the 33 London Boroughs –
contractors are BIFA (asbestos) and C.S.G (chemicals).
Multi-material kerbside collection scheme involves collection of glass, newspaper and magazines,
household paper, kitchen and corrugated cardboard, food and drink cans, textiles and shoes,
aluminium foil and engine oil.
CFC - chloro-fluoro-carbon.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 13
maintenance of 87km of principal roads, 330km of residential roads and 20km of
footpaths. Service activity includes:
periodic inspections of the highway;
co-ordination and monitoring of public utilities works on the highway;
maintenance of road and footway surfaces, including highway drainage;
maintenance of 14,006 streetlights, 4,500 traffic signs and bollards, 51 Zebra
crossings and 30km of authority owned electric supply cable;
the maintenance of street furniture/signs/fences/railings;
highways trees/amenity area maintenance; and
river bank and watercourse maintenance.
57 Services are provided through the combination of external contractors and EDS.
58 The department’s revenue budget for 2003/04 is £23 million of which the
streetscene element is approximately £18.6 million.
How good is the service?
Are the aims clear and challenging?
59 Inspectors look to see how a council has agreed the key aims for the service being
inspected, how clear these aims are to the people that receive the service and
whether these reflect the corporate aims of the organisation as a whole.
60 Aims need to be challenging, address local needs and support national objectives.
This requires the council to consider and demonstrate how a service contributes to
its wider corporate aims and community plans.
61 We found a clear corporate vision and priorities with six of the ten corporate
priorities defined by the Executive being directly applicable to streetscene services.
‘Business critical’ performance measures and plans support each priority. For
example, for the ‘promoting community cohesion and community safety’ priority,
BVPI18 98 – percentage of street lights not working; and
local indicators 70a and 70b - percentage of repairs to dangerous/damaged
footways or carriageways carried out within 24 hours.
62 And for the ‘enhancing our environment’ priority, they include:
BVPI 82a and 82b - percentage of household waste recycled/composted; and
local indicators for street cleanliness and missed bin collections.
63 The business critical priorities link to broad community plan objectives, for example:
BVPI – Best Value Performance indicator.
p 14 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
faster repairs for roads, footways and public lighting, and having safer streets
with fewer street lights out of action, relate to the ‘safer community’ objective;
improving the streetscene with cleaner streets, tackling the rise in graffiti, fly
tipping and abandoned vehicles relate to the ‘greener community’ objective.
64 In addition, the Executive business plan clearly states that by April 2004, a robust
assessment of the performance and specification of a range of significant services
including waste collection, highway maintenance and street cleaning should have
been carried out and services market tested where appropriate.
65 The PSA targets form key commitments under the Executive business plan, also
being regarded as ‘business critical’, with progress to be monitored throughout
2003/04. These targets also link with community plan objectives. PSA targets
relevant to streetscene services are:
removal of abandoned vehicles – percentage removed from council property
within three days; and
graffiti and fly posting – again percentage removed from council property
within three days.
66 Targets set for each are challenging bearing in mind the council’s recent track
in 2001/2, 25 per cent of abandoned vehicles were removed within three days.
The PSA target is for 40 per cent in 2003/4 rising to 60 per cent by the end of
2005/6 (15 per cent points above what is expected without the PSA); and
in 2001/2, 1 per cent graffiti and 0 per cent fly posters were removed within
three days. The PSA target is for 50 per cent in 2003/4 rising to 100 per cent
by the end of 2005/6 (50 per cent points above what is expected without the
67 However, we think that local targets for missed bin collections (350 for 2003/04) are
not challenging when considering the 2001/02 performance of 205. This local target
appears to be based on 2002/3 outturn of 380.
68 The council has challenging statutory recycling targets for household waste, set at
28 per cent by 2003/04 and 36 per cent by 2005/06. The council does not currently
have the means to achieve these targets and more conservative local targets,
though still challenging, have been set. These are for a combined target of 18 per
cent by end 2003/04 and 25 per cent by end 2005/6.
69 The SM&PP mission statement detailed below also supports the community plan
‘Our aim is to provide effective services to protect the environment and to improve the quality of
life for the people, who live in, work or travel through the borough’
70 The 2003/04 SM&PP business plan details four departmental strategic objectives:
improving customer care;
improving communications and consultation; and
improving management systems are not outcome focused as key success
factors have not been specified.
71 We were told that success would be measured against local targets and BVPIs.
Senior officers also informed us that the ambition of the authority is to be ‘excellent’
by 2006. We found a number of initiatives currently underway but a lack of clarity
on the route map for achieving improved performance and what this would actually
look like in service delivery terms.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 15
72 The top three priorities for improvement (in order of priority) arising from our
residents’ focus group were:
highway maintenance – including repairs to footpaths and roads (potholes),
and more preventative maintenance to reduce complaints;
customer care – including more consultation before starting work, feedback on
what the council is planning to do, more public meetings, clarification on
targets/timescales for action, speedier response to problems, and the need to
uphold rules and regulations relating to a service charter;
street cleaning/litter and enforcement – including:
regular cleaning and emptying of bins, and provision of more bins; and
management of overhanging branches, and better management of sub-
contractors including penalties for failure.
73 There are currently initiatives to improve customer access, street cleaning and
enforcement but highways maintenance has traditionally been a low priority for the
council. As a consequence, targets for improvement to the highway infrastructure
reflect the low level of resources that are currently allocated (see also paragraphs
74 Users we spoke to are not aware of any overarching service charter/standards
enabling them to understand the range of services provided and the standards to
expect. This is one of their top priorities for improvement.
75 We were provided with limited published performance standards and targets, for
example, those for refuse collection and street cleansing. In these two cases,
standards and performance against them are advertised annually in the local press
and reviewed with focus groups. However, these are isolated cases and we found
no easily accessible standards for streetscene services as a whole. The council
should address this as a priority.
76 Our interviews with managers and staff indicated that there is formal reporting of
the progress towards meeting the ‘business critical’ (including PSA) targets. The
majority of staff we spoke to were aware of the objectives or targets which related
to them and had personal targets set as part of the annual staff development and
77 The council’s waste management strategy was agreed by the Executive on 1 April
2003. Its aims are consistent with the waste management hierarchy adopted by the
EU, and the National Waste Strategy. The strategy also recognises the Proximity
Principle19. This is also reflected in the environmental policies detailed in the UDP
revised deposit 2001 which also specify that:
all significant new developments should provide the necessary infrastructure
requirements to facilitate waste minimisation and recovery; and
planning applications for new developments should provide composting
facilities and readily accessible recycling facilities for storage and collection of
78 The council’s current strategies on recycling and waste reduction are clear:
Maximise collection through the green box scheme.
Proximity principle – waste should generally be managed as near as possible to its place of
production as transporting waste can have major environmental impacts.
p 16 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
Maximise material diverted for recycling and composting at the Civic Amenity
Encourage waste prevention and waste reduction.
Ensure maximum take-up of the recycling bring system.
Promote expansion of home composting in the borough.
Increase local awareness and understanding of recycling, composting and
Promote the purchase, by the council and others, of recycled products to
stimulate market development.
Support the moratorium on waste incineration until a London-wide strategy
created by the GLA is in effect.
Identify sites in preferred industrial locations and other employment areas
(with river and rail access particularly) for a range of waste management
Provide local recycling points at new residential, retail and other commercial
buildings for waste materials through section 106 agreements.
79 To support these strategies and the targets already specified, further targets have
been set for recycling activities. These include:
participation rate in the green box scheme (36 per cent in 2003/04); and
distribution of 1500 home compostors in 2003/04.
80 The council is working with constituent members of, and the WLWA20 itself to
develop a long term integrated waste strategy. However, this work is in its early
81 In summary, we conclude that the council’s priorities for the streetscene are clear in
terms of improvement targets, but these do not include highway maintenance which
is a key user priority. The lack of a route map for achieving improved performance
makes it difficult to understand exactly where the new department is heading, and
how the public will know whether it has delivered improvement. The lack of widely
available service standards also makes it difficult for the public to understand what
the council is trying to achieve and for the council to manage public expectation for
the services being delivered.
Does the service meet these aims?
82 Having considered the aims that the council has set for the service, inspectors
make an assessment of how well the council is meeting these aims. This includes
an assessment of performance against specific service standards and targets and
the council’s approach to measuring whether it is actually delivering what it set out
Taking action to minimise, reuse and recycle waste
Reducing the rate of growth in municipal waste
83 In 2000/01 the council successfully obtained Beacon Status for Sustainable
Development: Dealing with Waste. The council runs a number of waste
minimisation initiatives including home composting and publicity campaigns, for
example, support for the Real Nappy initiative, supported by roadshows, publicity
and press releases.
84 The growth of household waste collected in Hounslow compares favourably with
those of other London borough collection authorities. In 2001/02 there was an
WLWA – West London Waste Authority.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 17
overall reduction in waste collected (to 510kg per head) which is contrary to the
London and national trend of growth between 3-5 per cent annually. This placed
the council in the top quartile when compared with other waste collection authorities
in London and England. Un-audited figures for 2002/3 reveal a further reduction to
507kg per head.
85 Over 10,000 home composting units have been distributed free of charge to date,
representing approximately 12.5 per cent of the borough’s households. The target
is to distribute 1,500 per year which is made possible by a dedicated £20,000
budget. During 2003/4 to date, 784 have been distributed with a further 144 on the
waiting list suggesting that the council will meet its target. To support this initiative,
the council provides leaflets, workshops and quarterly newsletters in the first year
for new users. There is also a specific hotline for problems. Ninety-one per cent of
users responding to a composting questionnaire in July 2003 indicated their waste
had reduced as a result.
86 We were not made aware of any significant minimisation, re-use or recycling
initiatives targeted at local businesses.
87 In the past three years, work has been undertaken to minimise the waste derived
from schools and other council establishments. Waste collection and disposal
budgets are now devolved to waste producers, to promote waste minimisation and
reinforce the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Performance against statutory targets for recycling and composting
88 Recycling performance is currently good. The total percentage of household waste
recycled and composted during 2001/02 were 11.5 per cent and 1 per cent
respectively demonstrating top quartile performance for London. Un-audited
performance data for 2002/3 reveals improved performance with returns of 13 per
cent and 2.1 per cent respectively. The position for the first quarter 2003/4 is
broadly similar with 12.8 per cent recycled and 1.3 per cent composted to date
though the composting figure has reduced (see paragraph 98).
89 There is high user satisfaction with recycling facilities. Sixty-seven per cent of
residents consider facilities to be good, very good or excellent21. Residents that we
spoke to were also complimentary of the range of facilities.
Multi-material green box collection
90 The council’s green box scheme has covered the whole borough since January
2002 and the range of materials collected has increased from 8 to 11 since January
2003 (see paragraph 49). Kerbside tonnages collected between April and July 2003
represent a 7 per cent increase on the corresponding period last year.
91 Performance for missed collections has improved during the first quarter 2003/4.
The service is currently averaging 35 missed collections per week. This compares
favourably with the 2002/03 average of 380, though this figure included missed
refuse and garden waste collections.
92 Residents we spoke to also rated the service highly although they would like to be
able to recycle plastic through the green box scheme.
93 The contractors’ collection rounds/zones do not currently link with the council’s
refuse collection rounds except for Fridays where refuse collection follows recycling
collection. We understand that there will be no change until the council re-zones its
refuse collection and street cleaning operations in March 2004 to allow the order of
source: Residents survey January 2003 (London-wide ALG Residents’ Survey, conducted across the
Borough by independent market research consultants, Taylor Nelson Sofres.
p 18 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
street maintenance activity to be recycling collection, refuse collection, street
cleansing and highway grounds maintenance.
94 Mini recycling sites are situated on housing estates (see paragraph 50). A further
53 estate recycling frames have been added during 2003/4 to date, making 196
sites in total to date, serving 10,400 households. The scheme now covers all 91
estates managed by Hounslow Homes. A further 64 sites are to be installed by
March 2004 raising number of households served to 15,000.
95 The service is highly rated by Hounslow Homes who have a good working
relationship with the recycling team. Their officers informed us that tenants
associations and caretakers were consulted on siting of these facilities and that
promotional material was provided in five main community languages when the
scheme started. The sites have been kept clean with negligible vandalism. This
was confirmed by reality checks we undertook.
96 Estate recycling currently produces 8 tonnes per week and there is capacity in the
recycling contract to collect from all estate recycling sites at no additional cost as
the contract makes provision for collection from up to 90,000 properties.
97 We found recycling bring sites to be generally well maintained except for the banks
in Feltham High Street that were heavily littered and covered in graffiti.
Garden waste collection
98 Garden waste collections run from May to November. The tonnages collected
during 2003 to date are below that for last year due to dry weather conditions and
the scheme starting and finishing six weeks later this year to meet residents’
demands. Participation monitoring shows average weekly participation of 8 per
99 Performance for missed collections has improved during the first quarter 2003/4.
The service is currently averaging 58 missed collections per week. This compares
favourably with the 2002/03 average of 380, though again, this figure also included
missed refuse and green box collections.
Kitchen waste collection pilot
100 The council commissioned a study of the composition of black bag waste in April
2002 and found a high level of organic waste. The consultants concluded that
around 68 per cent of the black sack waste was biodegradable22. Following this
study, a successful bid for £1 million was secured from the London Recycling Fund
to develop green/kitchen waste processing in west London. The trial, labelled the
organics in west London (OWL) project started November 2002 and is a joint trial
between WLWA, Hounslow, Ealing Community Transport (the council’s recycling
contractor), Brent, Ealing, and Richmond to provide a 12-month kerbside kitchen
waste collection from approximately 4,000 households.
101 The service is available to 660 Hounslow households that have been provided
with a small kitchen bin, and a slightly larger bin to store outside. The kitchen waste
(all kitchen waste except any meat/fish) is collected alongside the weekly green box
recycling collection and is forwarded to Rainham, Essex for composting.
102 Participation surveys reveal that participation levels have increased from between
18-20 per cent when the scheme started, to the present level of 24 per cent.
Trade waste recycling
Biodegradable – can be organically treated through composting or anaerobic digestion.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 19
103 No commercial waste from trade collections is currently recycled as the council
does not have facilities to separate commercial waste and recycle it prior to
disposal, or access to recycling markets if it did so.
Council reuse/recycling initiatives
104 The council is running a number of internal recycling/re-use initiatives connected
with the streetscene. These include:
Highway Maintenance DSO23 recycling/re-use initiatives.
Excavated tarmac and concrete is recycled by Days at Brentford and bought
back as crushed concrete saving tipping charges and landfill tax.
Since August the service has use recycled glass sand. This is specified to
Sharp standards and is used for bedding saving payment of aggregate tax.
Eco blend is used for sub base materials on footways.
Damaged ‘keep left’ bollards are collected periodically by a company in
Doncaster who refurbish them.
The DSO does not currently keep records of concrete material recycled and
there are no specific targets for use of recycled material within the existing
highways maintenance contract. Targets should be set in this respect.
Composting of leaf litter collected by street cleaners in autumn. However, the
majority of street cleaning waste is not recycled. The council should explore
ways to address this.
Virtually all junior schools have recycling facilities as do all secondary schools.
School promotions, assembly visits and class talks are undertaken.
Primary schools are offered the opportunity to join the green box scheme, to
receive classroom talks and have visits by Waste Watch. Secondary schools
are offered wheeled recycling containers for paper and cans, and to receive
classroom talks. There is currently no measurement of the impact of this work,
for example, through increased tonnages collected.
Recycling Action Groups
105 The council has established two waste action groups in Brentford and Chiswick.
These consist of enthusiastic local residents who work together on local waste
reduction and recycling issues.
106 The Chiswick group have assisted the council to monitor green box participation,
distribute further leaflets, and monitor the impact. This has helped increase the
average participation rate from 39 per cent to 49 per cent in the 482 properties
Education/promotion of recycling
107 Campaigns are supported by roadshows, publicity, and press releases, for
example, Rethink rubbish. The council’s recycling contractor supports the council’s
recycling education initiatives at schools and promotions.
Space Waye CA site, Feltham
108 The council’s civic amenity site at Space Waye, Feltham, has separate access
and waste/recycling facilities for household and commercial waste, the latter via a
DSO – Direct Service Organisation.
p 20 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
weighbridge. As detailed in paragraph 53, the site now provides an extensive range
of recycling facilities.
109 We found signage from the A312 to Space Waye to be clear as were internal
signs and instructions for facilities. Facilities were accessible and user friendly due
to good access including provision of steps up to the skips and staff on hand to
provide help and support.
110 The Education Centre is now open and being used for key stages 1 and 2. This
second storey portacabin is currently inaccessible for wheelchair users. However,
discussions are proceeding regarding installation of a stair lift and funding has been
set aside for this necessary improvement.
111 There is an incentive for traders to separate their waste to get a discounted gate
fee (£10 per tonne).
112 The site is currently being re-developed as a re-use and recycling centre to
receive a wider range of materials for composting and recycling. Funding of
£215,000 secured from the London Recycling Fund is being used to:
install new retaining concrete walls to create separate bays for timber, green
material, and metal allowing some recycling from traders
provide better signage
provide new containers for re-use, for example plastics and electrical goods
113 We conclude that recycling performance is good and the council is developing a
comprehensive infrastructure to facilitate achievement of its local recycling targets.
However, there are currently no minimisation/re-use or recycling initiatives targeted
at local businesses, no facilities to recycle trade waste collected, and limited
internal re-use and recycling initiatives.
Effective management of hazardous waste and clinical waste
114 The council has identified 92 closed landfill sites24 within the borough, 57 of which
are council owned. Most are filled with inert material. Over 400 bore holes have
been drilled across the borough and are regularly monitored on a site by site basis
according to risk, using the Government’s CLEA25 risk management tool. Site check
information is regularly updated using a bespoke Geographic Information System
(GIS) for contaminated land.
115 The council has developed close working relationships with both Imperial and
Royal Holloway and Bedford colleges to secure assistance from students to help
with monitoring arrangements alongside the council’s staff resources.
116 Clinical waste collections form part of the main refuse collection contract but use
a separate unmarked van to make the service more discrete. The service collects
sharps containers or marked bags, from front doors which are then taken to
Colnbrook for incineration. We found no complaints in respect of this service.
Source: Contaminated Land Strategy.
CLEA - Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 21
117 The council is part of a London-wide contract26 for the collection and disposal of
hazardous waste. Asbestos and chemicals are collected by appointment from
households, schools, registered charities, council offices, emergency services and
118 Asbestos is currently landfilled, while the collected chemicals are incinerated,
recycled or neutralised before being discharged or landfilled. Flexibility is built into
the contract to allow for alternative disposal options that are more sustainable (at
the agreement of all constituent authorities).
119 The contract contains service standards including collection times27 which are
monitored and reported to designated officers on a quarterly basis. However, the
reports need further analysis before performance against the standard can be
120 Representative user surveys are undertaken by the Corporation on behalf of all
London boroughs using the service within each billing period. This information is
presented to each borough along with invoices for service provision.
121 Accessibility from a user point of view is not streamlined and little has changed
over the last year. Users ringing the council are re-directed to the Corporation of
London who issue forms for completion and return, together with instructions on
how to present the waste for collection. The user is then contacted by the
contractor to arrange a collection time.
122 Information and forms cannot currently be downloaded by users direct from either
the Corporation’s or the council’s website. This is partly due to limitations of the
Corporation’s current contract administration IT system and no staff resources
being available for service development within the provisions of the contract.
123 We understand that the London-wide contract is due to be renewed in April 2004
and options to address both IT accessibility and information provision for users
whose first language is not English are included within the new specification.
124 We conclude that the council has satisfactory arrangements for managing
hazardous and clinical waste.
Collecting refuse and keeping the streets clean
How good is refuse collection?
125 The Hounslow Residents survey revealed high user satisfaction with the refuse
collection service with 73 per cent of residents considering it to be good, very good
or excellent, compared with 9 per cent rating it as poor to extremely poor. The
service has recently been awarded a second charter mark.
126 Residents that we spoke to were also complimentary of the service:
‘Refuse crews are polite, come on the specified day, and take whatever you put out’ –
‘Missed collections quickly dealt with’ – resident
‘Communication about changes to rotas is good’ - resident
The Corporation of London manages the contract on behalf of 32 of the London boroughs. The
contractors are BIFFA (asbestos) and C.S.G (chemicals).
Customers should expect their waste to be collected within 10 days of returning the completed form with
payments for any additional items.
p 22 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
127 We also found a good working relationship between Hounslow Homes and EDS.
Hounslow Homes rate the service highly and informed us that they are quickly
advised of any changes to collection schedules, and have been able to discuss
different collection options for small blocks of flats without Eurobins.
128 Performance for missed collections has improved during the first quarter 2003/4.
The service is currently averaging 58 missed collections per week. This compares
favourably to the 2002/03 and 2001/2 averages of 380 and 205 respectively,
though these figures also included missed green box and garden waste collections.
129 Assisted collections are available for both disabled and elderly residents from
agreed locations. However, we were informed that there are no checks made on
eligibility for this service.
130 Over the last year, and as part of the best value improvement plan (BVIP), EDS
have been consulted on all planning applications for new developments to assess
the impact on collection arrangements. The recycling team are also consulted
regarding low rise flats. Feedback on outcomes of applications has been provided
to both parties. We think this is notable practice.
131 Due to demand, the ‘Tidy Town’ bulky removal service has had difficulties in
meeting its target to provide appointments for residents within five working days. A
15 day wait has not been uncommon. Residents that we spoke to expressed some
dissatisfaction with the responsiveness of the service and lack of awareness of
concessions available. The council has recognised the need to improve timeliness
of the service and the average response time for 1398 collections undertaken
during the first quarter 2003/04 has improved to 8.5 days. All material collected by
the service is currently landfilled.
132 Trade waste collection is undertaken by EDS who have also taken on trade
waste contract administration from April 2003. The number of trade waste contracts
has remained fairly constant since 2001/02 and EDS have BVIP targets to expand
the service. We were told that this has not been pursued during 2003 as the vehicle
fleet is near the end of its life expectancy. There is a need for more vehicles that
can handle bulk bins due to number of new developments in the borough and
Hounslow Homes’ requirement for more bulk bin rather than sack collection. The
existing bulking vehicles currently undertake trade and domestic collections from
estates. The council recognises the need for separate trade collection in order to
establish the true costs.
133 We conclude that the domestic refuse collection is effective. Opportunities to re-
use/recycle materials collected through the Tidy Town service, and to expand trade
waste income have not yet been realised.
How good is street cleaning?
134 The standard of street cleanliness is currently variable and there is low user
satisfaction with the service. 38 per cent of those responding to the 2003 Residents
survey rated the service as being poor and only 30 per cent rated it as being either
good or excellent.
135 Our reality checks also revealed variable performance. We found the main
principal roads (A4, A312, A315, A3006) to be generally cleaned to grade B
standard28, with side streets, for example, those in Heston, Chiswick, and Hounslow
varying between grade B and C. This reflects the views of residents we spoke to
who felt that major roads are cleaned but that side streets rarely get swept or that
there is a lack of a visible presence of street cleaners.
Standards of cleanliness as defined in the Code of Practice to the Environmental Protection Act
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 23
136 We found no evidence that the standards of litter picking on housing estate land
adjoining the public highway was different to that for street cleaning. Caretakers
litter pick daily but twice a day in areas near shops, for example, the Haverfield
137 We found park areas adjoining the public highway to be maintained to lower
standards than the streets, for example Feltham Pond and Turnham Green, partly
due to the low specification of the contract. These areas will affect public perception
of the standards of cleanliness as they will not differentiate between the street and
adjoining shrubbed/grassed areas. A five year review of services provided by the
existing contractor is currently being undertaken by members and officers.
138 Street cleansing generally operates between 7am and 4pm with town centre
cleaning finishing at 6pm. Although we found no significant build up of rubbish after
6pm, the council will need to carefully assess the likely impact of the 24-hour
licensing on operational activity, especially in Hounslow town centre.
139 The council’s own monitoring of street cleanliness for the last three years
revealed performance to grade A/B standard as follows:
2000/1 – 91 per cent
2001/2 – 93 per cent
2002/3 – 95 per cent
140 Although the 2002/3 target of 95 per cent of highways meeting high and
acceptable standard of cleanliness was met, this is clearly not reflected by public
perception. The council will need to manage this. We would expect this process to
dovetail with the independent assessments of street cleanliness being undertaken
by Encams (formerly Tidy Britain Group), the first of which is due at the end of
September/early October 2003.
141 The current street cleaning contract is output based but restricted by budget
availability. The focus has been on litter picking as the council received few
complaints about grit and detritus. Litter picking has generally been carried out
once a week.
142 Performance has dipped during the first quarter 2003/4 (93 per cent), but the
community environment team have been working with EDS to look at ways of using
resources more effectively and increase litter picking in certain areas.
143 In the last year, 2 additional litter picking routes have been added bringing the
total to 16. Approximately 85 per cent of the rounds now follow refuse collection
rounds. The litter picking schedule has been condensed into four days so that
manual sweeping can be undertaken on Fridays. Sweeping work takes place in
roads allocated by either street cleaning supervisors, community environment
officers, or where there have been complaints.
144 Resources have also been reallocated so that the A4 and A312 now get a double
litter pick. The additional street cleaning resource includes extra litter picking (daily)
around the three Hounslow stations and short cuts used by the public around these
areas. Any spare time operatives have is spent sweeping. To date, there has been
no measurement of any change in public perception of the standard of street
cleanliness in these areas.
145 The only permanent manual street sweeping crew is based in Chiswick to help
removal of detritus from the large number of street trees and because parking
problems are such that a mechanical sweeper cannot be used. Although operatives
informed us that a controlled parking zone is helping cleansing operations, our
reality checks revealed a variable standard of cleaning.
p 24 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
146 An additional manual sweeping gang work month to month in different areas
maintaining channels, footpaths, weeds, and cutting back vegetation. They
concentrate on about 10 roads agreed by supervisors and the streetcare team.
Manual sweeping is supplemented by use of three mechanical sweepers working
on fixed routes, and two HGV sweepers in Chiswick.
147 Seven rapid response teams pick up street cleaning bags, empty bins, remove
small fly tips and provide a one-hour response service. At weekends these teams
are used for street sweeping. Two rectification teams deal with miscellaneous work,
for example, complaints, larger fly tips, and refuse clearance where there have
been problems with access for refuse vehicles. Their workload is dictated by
supervisors or the streetcare team where monitoring reveals grade C areas or
148 The council recognises the problems with the standard of cleanliness of open
spaces adjoining the highway and has begun to work with both EDS and its
grounds maintenance contractor to coordinate street cleaning with grounds
maintenance activity, using Heston as a pilot area.
149 The pilot began in April 2003. Certain shrub beds have been turned back to
grassed areas to fund a higher frequency of grass cutting and visits to remaining
shrubbed areas. Maintenance schedules have been exchanged so that litter picking
is now planned to take place before grass cutting. The project will not be rolled out
until a re-zoning of street cleaning operations has been completed (in early 2004)
and user perception of Heston pilot has been measured (September/October
150 We observed a considerable amount of graffiti both on street furniture and on
private property during our reality checks. Feltham High Street was a typical
151 Because of the small budget, the graffiti team can only remove from council
property/structures though the problem is widespread. The service is mainly
reactive with only a limited availability of time to do any proactive work.
152 The council now has a PSA target for graffiti and fly poster removal. Performance
has improved considerably from 2001/02 when 1 per cent graffiti and 0 per cent fly
posters reported were removed within 3 days, to the first quarter of 2003/4, where
100 per cent of reported cases were removed in line with the PSA target.
153 We were made aware that the local Police and youth offending team have
requested lists of sites for young offenders to clear graffiti but this has not yet been
compiled. We think this should be pursued to act as both a deterrent for those
concerned, and as an additional resource to the limited resources currently
available to address this widespread problem.
154 The council, like many other local authorities, has seen a massive increase in the
number of reported abandoned vehicles in the last three years. In 1998/99, 2280
reports were investigated, rising to 7,344 in 2002/03. The number of vehicles that
have been removed and destroyed has seen similar major increases. In 1999/00
there were 1,330, rising to 3,777 in 2002/03.
155 Only 25 per cent abandoned vehicles were removed within three days during
2001/02. In the first quarter of 2003/4, 36.2 per cent were removed within three
days, which is just below the PSA target of 40 per cent.
156 Community environment officers (CEOs) undertake a considerable amount of
administration work in dealing with reports, conducting site visits, updating records
and arranging removals. Recent service improvements include standardised
procedures for reporting abandoned vehicles and surrendering vehicles. A leaflet
has been produced in conjunction with this which includes a tear off portion with
guidance on surrendering vehicles. In August 2003 alone 48 vehicles were
surrendered using this form.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 25
157 A senior community environment officer sits on the Anti Social Behaviour Group
as part of community safety partnership to advise and deal with streetscene issues
affecting crime and disorder, for example, graffiti, abandoned vehicles, and fly
158 The council does not have a formal contract for the removal of abandoned
vehicles but officers have assessed that charges are comparable with Hillingdon
and Richmond (other WLWA constituent boroughs) that have awarded contracts to
the same contractor based upon competitive tenders.
159 The council runs a number of educational initiatives and campaigns to encourage
the public to be more responsible for litter, for example:
Litter free school awards have been introduced to 12 secondary schools, 8 of
which achieved gold standard and 4 silver on inspection. The scheme has
also been introduced to six primary schools on a pilot basis. All of these
achieved gold standard.
‘Stupid waste’ campaign is underway – educating the public on the need to
avoid dropping litter as they pay for removal.
Community clean ups carried out at least once a month in areas such as
Focus Youth Centre, Beavers estate, Saxon Avenue and St Leonards church,
160 We conclude that cleansing of principal roads is fair, but fair to poor in side
roads, open spaces and shrub beds adjoining the highway, all of which have a
bearing upon the user perception of the standard of cleanliness. The council has
shifted resources to provide more sweeping and additional litter picking in town
centre areas and on the main principal roads but there has been no measurement
of changes in user perception to date in order to assess the impact of the changes.
Work has begun to better co-ordinate street cleaning with grounds maintenance
and address littering of shrub beds. Implications of the Licensing Act on service
delivery are yet to be assessed. There is considerable improvement for graffiti, fly
poster and abandoned vehicle removal. PSA targets are being achieved for graffiti
and flyposting with abandoned vehicle removal running just below the target.
Success of enforcement and education
161 The council recognises that enforcement has been low in priority and that
consideration needs to be given to utilising enforcement powers more often, for
example, by use of litter control notices.
162 The CEO team emphasis to date has been on education, giving verbal warnings
or issuing notices without proceeding to prosecution. For example, in the last year:
57 section 137 notices have been issued for wilful obstruction by builders and
145 section 154 notices have been issued for overhanging vegetation, bushes
or trees, 10 of which have required serving of a statutory notice; and
25 section 149 notices have been issued for materials on the highway.
163 Notices are either issued proactively during random street monitoring inspections
(see paragraph 181) or when there has been a complaint. There is currently no
regular programmed inspection of the whole street environment where these issues
can be identified.
164 Five community environment officers (CEOs) have recently attended the capital
standards streetcare academy to receive training for highway enforcement and the
Environmental Protection Act. The remaining five members of the team will be
trained as places become available. Since the initial training the council has carried
p 26 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
out one successful prosecution for fly tipping on Beavers Lane resulting in an
165 We found a number of fly tips when we carried out reality checks across the
borough. We made the council aware some of these including one on Chinchilla
Drive next to a piece of vacant land. The council were aware of this site and in
contact with the landowners to ensure that they were clearing the site and the road
round it regularly.
166 The council has tried to prevent fly tipping by gating off some roads and back
alleys that have traditionally been fly tipping hotspots, for example, Bedfont Green
167 The CEO team has drawn up lists of fly tipping hotspots but do not currently have
the resources to manage these proactively. Use of a mobile CCTV unit has
recently been secured, but this has to be shared with various community safety
initiatives and there is a long list of locations for its use. The impact is therefore
minimal at present.
168 We observed significant deposits of traders’ rubbish on the pavements in
Chiswick High Road during our reality checks. We were informed that 500 leaflets
have been delivered to commercial premises notifying them of their duty to dispose
of their waste correctly. This is to be followed up by personal visits and use of
powers to demand to see waste transfer notes.
169 We also observed fly tipping problems on service roads behind shop premises,
for example in Hounslow West (see exhibit 1). Officers told us that this case is
ongoing and involves planning enforcement. There is a limit to how effectively
these cases can be effectively managed due to the time currently available for
CEOs to deal with them (see also paragraph 183).
Exhibit 1, illegal trade fly tipping at the rear of Hounslow West shops
170 We conclude that there has been limited use of enforcement as a preventative
measure. The council has put the building blocks in place to train staff in highway
enforcement though a planned programme of enforcement activity targeted at
those areas of greatest need is yet to be drawn up.
Responsiveness and accessibility
171 Streetscene issues can be reported at the reception desk, call centre, via pre-
paid defect cards available in libraries and other public buildings and via the
internet either on a form or direct to relevant functional email address shown in the
council’s ‘A-Z of services’ booklet.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 27
172 The council has transferred all highways and drainage calls to the call centre
since our last inspection in March 2002. Although the general customer support
telephone number (020 8583 5555) is advertised, we found nine other telephone
numbers that the public can use to access various streetscene services, for
020 8583 4950 – street lighting.
020 8583 5000 – refuse collection.
020 8583 5071/2 – community environment officers and highways inspectors.
020 8583 5060 – recycling, with a separate number for the council’s recycling
The Graffiti hotline is a 24-hour answering machine service.
173 Call centre staff told us that the public still think they are passed from ‘pillar to
post’. This view was shared by residents we spoke to. They reported frustrations in
reporting and getting ownership of issues by council staff, and lack of feedback
from the council. Indeed, of 81 complaints received by the department during April
to June 2003, 38 per cent were due to lack of response to a previous complaint,
and 27 per cent were due to lack of action from original service request.
174 Opening hours for streetscene services range from 8.45am to 6.30pm. The call
centre only operates from 9am to 5pm. Outside these times calls are directed to the
out-of-hours emergency service. The council should provide standard opening
hours for this group of services. We understand this issue is being looked at
corporately as part of the council’s ‘customer services’ best value review.
175 The call centre operates a minicom line for those callers who use text phone for
communication and also have staff who can speak to callers in local community
176 The council offers facilities for green waste customers to pay by credit/debit card,
cheque or postal order (not cash), by post, telephone or also online via the
contractor’s website. In addition, EDS can take credit/debit card payments for trade
waste and the Tidy Town service.
177 Call centre staff use the FLARE management information system to log highway
maintenance and street cleansing service requests and complaints. Although the
system has search facilities to establish any previous complaint by address or
complainant, our discussions with CEOs and highways inspectors revealed that this
is not happening and they are having to link jobs together.
178 We found evidence of public information in community languages for example:
The recycling ‘We can collect’ booklet.
Environmental direct services booklet (April 2003) includes sections in Somali,
Urdu, Farsi, Punjabi, and Gujarati.
179 However, we found the Customer information A-Z handbook (June 2003) for
SM&PP, EDS, borough planning, and policy and regeneration, to be poorly
organised with no provision in community languages.
180 In conclusion, the council offers a number of facilities for users with diverse
needs and now offers a range of more accessible payment methods. However,
there are multiple access points for streetscene services that contribute to user
frustrations, and opening hours are not uniform across the department.
p 28 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
Streetscene inspection and monitoring arrangements
181 As detailed earlier, inspection and monitoring arrangements are split between the
highways maintenance team (carriageway and footway repairs and street works),
and the community environment team (abandoned vehicles, highway enforcement,
graffiti, street cleansing, refuse collection, recycling, street tree and grounds
182 CEOs and highways inspectors informed us that working arrangements have
become easier since co-location.
‘We are less departmentalised and now learn from other peoples experiences e.g. fly
tips, materials on highway’– CEOs/Highways inspectors
183 CEO priorities are based on PSA priorities, resident complaints and random
checks in relation to collection arrangements and street cleansing. They have direct
telephone lines pending the transfer of all initial contacts to the call centre. This
means that they currently spend approximately 50 per cent of their available time in
office. They hope to carry out more focused enforcement work when initial calls
transfer to the call centre in October 2003.
184 Highway inspectors undertake periodic programmed safety inspections of the
carriageways and footways dependent on regularity of use, defect inspections and
checks, and inspections of works being undertaken by statutory undertakers. They
currently spend approximately 40 per cent of their time in the office processing
orders and paperwork, and 60 per cent on site.
185 There is a need to maximise the time that both CEOs and highways inspectors
spend on the street to provide a more proactive service. For this reason the council
is implementing the confirm integrated street management system to allow more
highway enforcement; and
management of street lighting.
186 This is due to be implemented by December 2003 and will ultimately enable
highways inspectors to raise orders on site using hand held data capture devices
and transmit them directly to the EDS Highways Maintenance DSO and remove the
involvement of administrative staff.
187 The council has a number of neighbourhood wardens that are street based.
Although they primarily respond to anti-social behaviour issues, they also report fly
tips, potholes, and street lighting defects. However, their work is not currently co-
ordinated with other inspection and monitoring functions. This does provide some
scope as these officers are on duty from 3pm until 11pm.
Providing safe, convenient and well-maintained roads and footways
Efficiency and effectiveness of the maintenance service
188 Principal roads are well maintained but local road maintenance has been
significantly under funded over a number of years resulting in poor condition.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 29
189 Approximately £1 million revenue is spent annually on highway maintenance.
This is usually split equally between planned maintenance and defect (reactive)
maintenance. Parking and development control income and streetworks surpluses
have previously been used to support these budgets. Additional capital funding of
£180,000 has been secured for 2003/4 which is a 36 per cent rise in the existing
capital provision of £500,000.
190 Performance indicators and our own reality checks reveal good condition of
carriageways to principal roads. The council has shown improved performance
against BVPI96 during 2002/03:
BVPI96 2002/03 – 4.11 per cent should be considered for reconstruction – an
improvement from 2001/2 (8.78 per cent).
191 The principal road programme is funded by Transport for London. Following
assessment, a five year programme of carriageway resurfacing and associated
footway re-construction is included in the borough spending plan.
192 Over the last few years the council has consistently demonstrated its ability to
fully spend its allocation plus any additional funding received due to under spends
by other London boroughs. The principal road funding allocation for 2003/04 is
£998,000 and will be fully expended following the carriageway reconstruction and
associated footway schemes on the A314, A315 and A3063.
193 However, there is currently a £30 million backlog in planned maintenance to local
roads and footways. In order to resurface roads and reconstruct footways at the
end of their design life of 25 years it would be necessary to allocate £3 million per
annum for planned maintenance rather than the £1 million currently allocated.
194 Residents told us of poor local road surfaces and that this would be their top
priority for improvement:
‘The roads are breaking up – for example Cannes Lane, Sussex Avenue and Orchard
Avenue’ – resident
‘Highways are awful – there has to be a big hole before they will even bother coming
to inspect – when they do come, they just leave a white mark around the hole’ –
195 Most areas visited during our reality checks showed the poor state of minor roads
and pavements for example, Brentford, Heston, Cranford, and Chiswick (see
exhibits 2 and 3 ).
Exhibit 2 – Pot holes at Cranford Lane, Cranford
Exhibit 3 – Pot hole at Glebe Road, Chiswick
p 30 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
196 The poor condition of roads and pavements is also borne out by the worsening
position against BVPIs:
As at the end of 2001/02, 24.21 per cent of the classified non-principal road
network needed to be considered for reconstruction. As at the end of 2002/03,
this had increased to 28.61 per cent. The target for 2003/04 is 25 per cent.
As at the end of 2001/02, 32.48 per cent of the unclassified non-principal road
network needed to be considered for reconstruction. As at the end of 2002/03,
this had increased to 36.21 per cent. The target for 2003/04 is 35 per cent.
197 Current targets set in respect of both, if achieved, will only bring performance
back to 2001/02 levels, which were London bottom quartile.
198 There is a similar position for footways where performance indicators reveal that
48.88 per cent of both classified and unclassified non-principal footways should
currently be considered for reconstruction.
199 The declining condition of the local road network and consequent increase in the
number of defects identified has required an increase in funding for defect
maintenance. In the absence of any additional funding (i.e. from the DoT to support
the 10 year transport plan), it has been necessary to take funds from planned to
defect maintenance further, increasing the planned maintenance backlog. This has
in turn resulted in an increase in the number of accident claims the cost of which
has risen in recent years to the current level of £900,000.
200 Insurance claims reported between April 2000 and March 2003 have been
analysed by cause and cost, the top three being – trips on the highway,
carriageway potholes and tree roots. These have been further analysed by
postcode and hotspots identified, for example, Bedfont Road, Faggs Road, and
Southall Lane for potholes, and Staines Road and Chiswick High Road for pothole
and tripping claims.
201 A corporate risk management group has been set up to consider the analysis of
highway insurance claims and the potential for ‘pump-priming’ highway
maintenance budgets from the council’s insurance reserve fund. The council needs
to decide whether to revise its intervention levels (see paragraph 205 below), and
assess the financial impact of such action, to inform any decision regarding a
contribution from the Insurance Fund.
202 Technical assessment of footways and carriageways is in accordance with the
principles of the UKPMS29 and has been used to create a corporate prioritised list
for reconstruction by the area committee. A formula has been devised to allocate
this funding between roads and footways.
UKPMS – United Kingdom Pavement Management System.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 31
203 To reduce the number of committee approvals required, provide continuity of
work for contractors and enable effective reaction to last minute budget allocations,
the prioritised lists were agreed by area committees in the March/April cycle 2003,
enabling those schemes of the highest priority to be implemented as funds are
made available throughout the year.
204 Although the council is to be commended for delegating prioritisation to area
committees, most of the residents we spoke to were not even aware of area
committee meetings, despite a number being on particular interest groups. We
understand that promotion of area committees is being taken forward as part of the
corporate communications strategy and information on them will be published in the
new Hounslow Borough Magazine. The council is also in the process of
establishing a borough-wide residents’ panel in order to encourage greater
205 To ensure consistent standards, ‘intervention levels’ have been set for repairs to
footways and carriageways. Priority for repair depends on the severity, nature and
location of the defect as follows so that target for completion ranges between 24
hours and 4 weeks.
206 Ninety-seven per cent repairs to dangerous/damaged carriageways and 100 per
cent repairs to dangerous/damaged footways were completed within 24 hours in
2002/03. This was mid-range performance for London authorities. Performance has
improved to 100 per cent rectification within 24 hours for both categories in the first
207 Achievement against performance targets for more routine repairs varied
between 84 per cent (two week priority) and 87.68 per cent (one week priority)
208 In conclusion, principal roads are well maintained but local roads and footways
are in poor condition. The increased maintenance budget for 2003/04 will not have
a significant impact on the overall highway infrastructure. Users are not aware how
they can contribute to local decision making despite the council putting in place a
mechanism to prioritise highway maintenance by area committees. However, the
council has demonstrated improved performance for repairs to dangerous /
damaged roads and footways, and work has begun to identify areas of greatest risk
against which insurance fund contributions can be considered.
Highway grounds maintenance and street tree maintenance
209 The council’s grounds and tree maintenance contractor, CIP operate a planned
tree maintenance programme with a five year turnaround. This is prioritised by
areas of greatest need with Chiswick first where there is over one quarter of the
entire borough stock, lots of large ‘forest’ type trees (London plane, lime and
maples) and a high concentration of residences. This area therefore presents the
highest risk so all trees to the east of south Isleworth/west Brentford have had at
least one pruning visit since the planned maintenance programme began in 1998.
210 The programme moves east to west pruning all trees in a street thus avoiding ad-
hoc work. The programme has taken longer than expected due to limited resources
in relation to major maintenance factors. For example, the urgent need to remove
dead/decaying trees and the large volume and high intensity of works required
where programmed maintenance has been undertaken.
211 In addition to planned maintenance, once or twice yearly, a route of the borough
is taken and dead/diseased or dying trees identified.
212 CIP uses the street tree inventory management system (STIMS) to manage the
council’s stock of highway trees. This will be transferred to the Confirm system in
October so that CIP can run both arboricultural and grounds maintenance on
p 32 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
confirm, and allow more sharing of information with the other services using the
213 CIP recognise the limitations of the grounds maintenance specification and have
been working with the council in order to maximise resources, starting in Heston (as
detailed in paragraphs 148-149).
214 As a community safety initiative, night patrols of street lighting have been
extended in 2002/3 to include all roads in the borough with more frequent patrols
during the darker winter months. Every street lamp is now patrolled in a ten week
period so defects are picked up quicker and there are fewer public complaints (20
per cent fewer April to June 2003 compared to same period last year). Faults
identified by night patrols have also reduced by 20 per cent. This has been helped
by the change of policy to bulk change and clean rather than burning street lights to
215 The performance for streetlights not working as planned 2002/03 was 0.55 per
cent, a slight dip in performance from 2001/2 (0.48 per cent). The target for 2003/4
is 0.49 per cent and first quarter performance was 0.34 per cent which is exceeding
the ‘business critical’ target. The time taken to repair defective lights has reduced
from five days to three days (2003/04 to date). This has shown in increased
satisfaction with street lighting in Hounslow when latest survey shows satisfaction
across London has declined.
216 The street lighting section has invested in a module of the confirm system which
allows surveys and the asset register to be updated through the use of tablet
handheld personal computers.
217 We conducted reality checks in Heston, Osterley, Isleworth, and the Hounslow
central area and found only nine lamps to be out.
218 The council has submitted a street lighting PFI bid to the Department for
Transport for replacement and new columns plus illuminated signs with the
assistance of a major private sector consultancy firm. Other options, for example,
leasing, are being explored should the bid fail.
New Roads and Streetworks Act (NRSWA)
219 The council has been robust at generating income from statutory undertakers.
Approximately £200,000 of NRSWA surplus was diverted in 2002/03 to support
highways maintenance. This has been achieved by increasing the number of
highways inspectors by four (to ten) to allow 100 per cent inspection of statutory
undertakers permanent reinstatements and operation of procedures for section 74
inspection and notification of statutory undertakers.
220 Quarterly co-ordination meetings with statutory undertakers now take place to
look at a forward plan (two to three years in advance) so that roads are not being
dug up after planned or reactive repairs.
221 The council is working with three other London boroughs to learn from their
established systems on NRSWA and to adopt a common policy with utility
222 The council has prepared a new record of all damaged manhole covers and
plants which has resulted in accelerated repairs. The planned investment in the
new IT system will allow it to focus resources in traffic sensitive roads.
The ease of use of roads and footways
223 We note that there has been a 10 per cent increase in public satisfaction with
traffic congestion, which is in part due to improved management of street works.
224 Ninety-seven per cent of pedestrian crossings now have facilities for the disabled
(BVPI165). A target of 100 per cent has been set for 2003/4.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 33
225 The environmental schemes involving dropped kerbs are submitted to area
committees for approval. Though the council has engaged local disability groups in
the design of some environmental projects, the disability groups told us that their
advice is not always acted upon and reasons for changes are not communicated to
The contribution of highway infrastructure design and management to local
226 The council has accessed a variety of funding sources and involved local people
to develop local environmental projects, for example:
Partnership scheme with Thames College to create seating areas, new shrub
beds and extra bins in order to reduce littering in front of the college. The
college has funded most of the improvement work with the council providing
Bell corner pedestrianisation scheme, Hounslow, has been funded through
Section 106 funding, council capital funding and London bus priority funding.
Consultation has been conducted through area committees and traders whose
frontages have been affected.
Strand on the Green river walk (Thames Road end). The scheme was
approved by Chiswick area committee in January 2003, and the Strand on the
Green residents association has been actively involved in the scheme design
and has made a financial commitment towards funding part of the next phase.
Strand on the Green asset replacement and environmental improvement
scheme has been funded through council capital funding and section 106
Residents and members have also been involved in the Clock Tower war
memorial and piazza scheme at junction of Twickenham Road and South
Street, Isleworth. This scheme has been funded through capital challenge
funding, heritage lottery fund and the English Heritage/Friends of War
227 Each area committee is currently allocated funding of £50,000 annually to
develop small environmental projects, mainly those involving street trees, lighting
and access projects, and some with additional funding streams from borough
spending plan and section 106 allocations.
228 In designing the environmental projects, only three to five years maintenance
costs are built into projects. The maintenance of environmental enhancements is
then transferred to the relevant service units.
229 The council has developed a comprehensive draft design guide to ensure that
the local character of an area is strengthened by environmental projects. It plans to
adopt the guide as a supplementary planning standard, though this is yet to be
Street furniture and signs
230 We found guard railing to be old and in poor condition in some areas particularly
most of the length of Spring Grove.
231 There is currently no street signage inventory and no street furniture inventory,
though signage is has been included in routine inspections since April 2003. As a
result there is no planned maintenance programme for either. We were informed
that work would commence on the street furniture inventory following introduction of
the confirm system.
p 34 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
How does the performance compare?
232 In order to judge the quality of a service, it is important to compare the
performance of that service against other suppliers across a range of sectors. The
aim is not exact comparison, but an exploration of how similar services (or
elements of services) perform in order to identify significant differences, the
reasons for them, and the extent to which improvements are required.
233 There are a number of national performance indicators for streetscene services
that are audited. These are set out in tables A to D below, showing Hounslow’s
score in comparison with the top 25 per cent in London and nationally for 2001/02
and 2000/01, where this is the latest available information.
Table A: Hounslow’s refuse collection, disposal and recycling performance for
London All England
2001/02 indicator Authority quartile quartile
reference Description data position position
Refuse collection, disposal and recycling
Percentage of household waste recycled and
BV82a + b 12.5% Top Na
BV84 Household waste collected – kg per capita 510 Top1 Bottom
BV86 Cost of waste collection per household £26.6 Top 2nd
Number of collections missed per 100,000 household
BV88 ² 129* Na Na
Percentage of people satisfied with household waste
BV90a ³ 71% 3rd Bottom
BV90b ³ Percentage of people satisfied with recycling facilities 60% Top 3rd
Percentage of people satisfied with civic amenity
BV90c ³ 65% 2nd Bottom
Percentage of population within 1 km of recycling
BV91 100% Top Top
facility of kerbside collection
¹ Indicates position based on authorities with responsibility for Waste Collection.
² These BVPIs deleted/not applicable in 2002/03.
³ Data shown for 2000/01. These BVPIs deleted/not applicable in 2001/02.
N/A Indicates no data was returned by the authority or no percentile statistics are available for an
* Where no data was returned or doubts were expressed about the arrangements for collecting the
234 In terms of positioning against 2001/02 statutory BVPIs, Hounslow generally
performs well in terms of refuse collection, waste disposal and recycling,
demonstrating London top quartile performance for four key indicators:
cost of waste collection per household;
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 35
total tonnage of household waste recycled;
kg of household waste collected per head; and
percentage of population within 1km of recycling facilities.
235 We have also included the 2000/1 figure for public satisfaction with recycling
facilities. These statistics reflect initiatives outlined earlier in this report, and as
already detailed there have been further improvements in respect of household
waste recycled, resident satisfaction with recycling facilities and tonnage of waste
collected per head during 2002/03.
Table B: Hounslow’s cleansing performance for 2001/2002
2001/02 London All England
indicator Description quartile quartile
reference position position
BV85 Cost per km2 of cleaning relevant land £441,883 3rd Bottom
Percentage of people satisfied with
BV891 47% Bottom Bottom
AC E1/ LPI Percentage of highways of a high or
92% 2nd 3rd
SS11 acceptable standard of cleanliness
AC E2/ LPI Average time taken to remove fly-tips –
1.11 3rd 2nd
SS21 calendar days
Data from 2000/01. These PIs deleted/not applicable in 2001/02
236 For street cleaning, there is a mixed picture with the council demonstrating mid-
range performance during 2001/02. There has been a further drop in public
satisfaction in the service since this time (see paragraph 134) although the
council’s monitoring data for 2002/03 suggests that performance has improved (see
paragraphs 139-140). This suggests that there is disparity between user
perceptions and actual service performance which the council needs to address.
Table C: Hounslow’s highways maintenance performance for 2001/2002
2001/02 London All England
indicator Description quartile quartile
reference position position
Cost of highway maintenance per 100
BV93 £0.49 3rd 3rd
p 36 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
Condition of principal roads:
BV96 8.78% 2nd 2nd
percentage in need of repair
Condition of classified non-principal
BV97a 24.2% Bottom Bottom
roads: percentage in need of repair
Condition of unclassified non-principal
BV97b 32.5% Bottom Bottom
roads: percentage in need of repair
Percentage of damaged roads or
BV105 98% 3rd 2nd
pavements made safe within 24 hours
237 Performance indicators for highways reflect our reality checks. Principal roads
are generally well-maintained and there has been further improvement during
2002/03 as 4.11 per cent are now in need of reconstruction. However, local roads
and pavements are poorly maintained and this reflects the council’s performance
as both a London and national bottom quartile performer (see paragraphs 196-198)
238 The council now has a ‘business critical’ measure for the percentage of damaged
roads or pavements made safe within 24 hours, and performance has improved
during 2002/03 and 2003/04 to date where performance has been sustained at 100
Table D: Hounslow’s street lighting performance for 2001/2002
2001/02 London All England
indicator Description quartile quartile
reference position position
BV95 Average cost of a working streetlight £70.48 2nd Bottom
239 The cost of street lighting compared favourably with other London authorities in
2001/02 but this indicator has since been removed.
240 The council has developed services through learning and comparison with other
local authorities. Examples include:
Introduction of a litter free schools scheme modelled on the scheme running at
Reigate and Banstead.
Learning from Croydon, Ealing and Brent in respect of graffiti removal.
Specific lessons have been learned from Ealing and Brent that have small
targeted response in town centres, one at a time, engaging
shopkeepers. This model will be used in Feltham; and
working in area committee zones in free time.
Learning from Bristol regarding Waste Action Groups who are still used for
reference by BRAG.
241 The council performs well in a number of services, including recycling, refuse
collection, maintenance of principal roads, and street lighting repairs. However, the
standard of maintenance of non-principal roads, footways and street furniture is
poor, service delivery is not currently co-ordinated, and street inspection activities
are not currently integrated. There has not been targeted enforcement to actively
resolve littering and fly tipping problems. In addition, there are currently multiple
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 37
contact points and users are not aware of the standards to which services should
be provided. We therefore consider the current service to be ‘fair’.
p 38 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
What are the prospects for improvement to the service?
242 The best value review (BVR) is the mechanism for ensuring authorities deliver
continuous improvement in the services they provide. In the absence of a BVR the
four building blocks outlined in the Audit Commission publication ‘Changing Gear’
(2001) are used to make Judgement Two:
Building Block One: Ownership of problems and the willingness to change.
Building Block Two: A sustained focus on what matters.
Building Block Three: The capacity of systems to deliver performance and
Building Block Four: The integration of continuous improvement into day to
Ownership of problems and willingness to change
243 In good and excellent councils, senior managers and councillors are committed to
continuous improvement. They are willing to tackle difficult problems, take difficult
decisions and stick to them. They are open about their performance and problems
and welcome internal and external challenge.
244 We found the council is generally aware of its key strengths and weaknesses,
and the context in which it operates. For example, members and staff are aware of
the need to invest in highways maintenance, to increase recycling opportunities
and enhance public access through the call centre.
245 The council has taken some steps to address problem areas identified by its own
streetscene BVR, streetscene scrutiny reports and the audit commission inspection
in 2002. For example, the council is planning to transfer the two remaining major
service areas (Community Environment and EDS) to the call centre by christmas
2003 to release CEOs, inspectors and others to spend more time on the street.
246 The ‘business critical’ performance indicators, for example, those detailed in
paragraphs 61 and 62, together with PSA targets are key commitments within the
Executive’s business plan.
247 We found a range of environmental initiatives underway to enhance the
appearance of the streetscene and encourage waste recycling and minimisation in
Hounslow. For example, the Heston pilot is linking litter collection and sweeping
activities with grass cutting of highway verges, and has involved removal of shrub
beds that trap litter and create problems for street cleansing. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that the Heston pilot has had a positive impact on the appearance of
streets. The council plans to extend the pilot to other areas once the rezoning
exercise is completed.
248 Through bringing recycling to housing estates, approximately 100 further low rise
blocks (12-30 dwelling units) were identified and a bid is being put in to the London
recycling fund to develop a smaller modular frame to provide near entrance home
recycling to another 2,500 people. The outcome will be known in mid-October.
249 We found that there has been a positive culture change with a real emphasis on
the need for all departments, stakeholders and contractors with a stake in
maintaining the street, to work together. Some examples of this are:
Close working relationships of the community environment officers with EDS
supervisors, ECT staff and CIP.
Joint working of SM&PP senior managers with EDS managers on service
Joint working between highways inspectors and EDS supervisors on
implementation of the confirm system.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 39
Joint working between area committees, local resident groups and various
streetscene services to develop environmental projects in Chiswick.
250 Although a number of positive elements are in place, there are a number of
issues for the future which need to be addressed.
251 We recognise that the pace of change has increased since completion of the
reorganisation, but progress on some key customer concerns such as the condition
of local roads, lack of enforcement, access to services and lack of services
standards, has been slow overall since our last inspection in March 2002. For
example, the need to unify various telephone numbers was identified as a priority
and ‘quick win’ area in the council’s own streetscene BVR in 2002 and also formed
part of our previous inspection recommendations. The improvement has yet to be
delivered to local residents. We were also concerned to find out there has been no
progress on our recommendation to prepare and agree clear and challenging
standards for the new department and make them widely available.
252 In addition, some key decisions that will impact on the future direction of this
service have yet to be made. For example, a number of streetscene contracts have
either expired or been extended. The council believes that the best way to decide
on future procurement options is to carry out a market analysis of collection
arrangements before deciding if full market testing is appropriate. It has
commissioned a market analysis study by an independent company to test
efficiency and effectiveness of the existing refuse collection system (domestic,
trade, clinical). The study will also explore sustainability of the household collection
contract on any future separation of trade waste and to look at possible approaches
for collection and disposal of compostable material (garden/kitchen waste), the
likely cost, and timing of introduction.
253 While we recognise that the market analysis report could offer the council choice
of procurement routes and options for kitchen waste collection, the present
proposal is limited only to collection services. We feel that the council should
undertake a robust appraisal of all of the options available including packaging with
other streetscene functions, for example street cleansing and highway grounds
254 The appropriate choice of a suitable procurement route and packaging of various
elements of streetscene services is imperative to ensure that the council gets best
value for its money and a service fit for purpose which can continuously improve.
255 The council lacks a long term improvement plan that can demonstrate the
proposed improvements, priorities and timescale beyond 2004. We comment on
this further in paragraph 289.
256 While we welcome the additional recycling and waste minimisation projects, the
council is however unlikely to achieve the challenging statutory household recycling
targets of 28 per cent by 2003/04 and 36 per cent by 2005/06.
257 In conclusion, we welcome the steps taken by the council to improve the
streetscene. A number of further enhancements are in progress or are planned
including the expansion of the recycling infrastructure and rollout of the Heston
pilot. However, we are concerned at the slow pace of change and uncertainty
surrounding some key issues, for example procurement options.
A sustained focus on what matters
258 In high performing councils, senior managers and councillors know what matters
to local people and use this information to set clear and consistent priorities. They
focus on achieving impact in priority areas and concentrate effort and resources in
proportion to priority.
p 40 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
259 As commented earlier, the council is focused on provision of waste minimisation
opportunities and improving the recycling infrastructure for local residents. Some of
the improvements have been positively received by users, including:
the estate recycling bins; and
the publicity campaign to highlight environmental and financial impact of litter.
This is ongoing with the current ‘Stupid Waste’ campaign.
260 The council has commissioned Waste Watch to undertake an audit of
communications activity in the borough and prepare a 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle)
communication strategy to reach Hounslow’s diverse communities. Focus groups
have taken place with ethnic minority communities and a report is expected by
September 2003 recommending ways to double participation in the kerbside
scheme by 2006.
261 The redevelopment of Space Waye will allow plastic recycling as an additional
service. The installation of the new storage bays and containers will help ensure
more effective segregation of recyclable and compostable waste and improve the
overall tonnage of diverted material from landfill.
262 There are currently no mechanisms through WLWA for separating and treating
(composting or otherwise) kitchen waste, so any changes in the current approach
by WLWA will have a significant effect on Hounslow’s collection arrangements if the
kitchen waste pilot scheme is rolled out. The council will either have to make
arrangements to separate this waste after collection, or arrange separate
collections for recyclables, putrescibles and other waste so households can
separate their waste themselves. Potential options for disposal of kitchen waste are
being developed by WLWA.
263 The council is looking to change refuse collection routes in March 2004 to follow
ECT recycling collections. Collection will be zoned so that the vehicles will be
concentrating on one area at a time. This exercise, which is about 60 per cent
complete, will also allow litter picking rounds to follow refuse collection and
264 There are a number of income generating opportunities currently being pursued:
The council has a preferred supplier for sponsorship/advertising opportunities
for the streetscene, for example, on street furniture, benches, bins, lamp
posts, roundabouts. The initiative is expected to generate income of
approximately £300,000 per annum. Revised plans are being drawn up for
large format advertising.
The council will seek payment of a bond prior to development works
commencing so that developers damaging footways will contribute to
Some traffic sensitive roads in national street gazetteer are currently
categorised as residential (level 1) which means utilities pay £250 per day for
street works. If these are re-categorised along the TfL guidance, some roads
may be classed as level 3 (principal and trunk traffic sensitive roads) attracting
a £2,000 per day payment from the utilities. The work is underway to re-
categorise local roads from level 1 to level 3 along the TfL guidance in
collaboration with other local authorities.
Use of the insurance fund reserve budget to make improvements in accident
265 Apart from advertising income, we were not provided with details of what the
estimated additional contribution to budgets would be when these initiatives are
implemented. It is therefore difficult for us to say what the overall impact is likely to
266 While the need for comprehensive investment in the highway infrastructure has
been recognised by the council and the above initiatives are underway, how the
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 41
infrastructure can be improved further, and a sustained focus placed on its
importance is not clear. There is little certainty with regard to the future availability
of resources, a significant amount of which will depend upon various sponsorship
and advertising contracts and the next medium term financial strategy both of which
are still to be agreed. Existing targets set for 2003/04, if achieved, are only likely to
restore the highways and footways to the condition they were in during 2001/02,
which was bottom quartile performance for London.
267 The users we spoke to during this and our previous inspection in 2002
highlighted lack of enforcement as one of their major areas of concern. The council
is, however, still to establish enforcement policies for streetscene activities. We
think this should be a priority if enforcement is to be effectively used to prevent
highway contraventions where education and issue of notices has proved
268 Expansion of the call centre is supported by investment in the confirm IT system
which will allow the streetscene data to be more widely shared across the various
streetscene services. We have some concerns on the expansion plan.
269 Approximately 60 per cent of telephone calls to CEOs are abandoned before they
are answered. Although the transfer of the CEO call handling function to the call
centre in October 2003 and the new IT system should reduce the abandonment
rate, the council has not systematically evaluated the capacity and knowledge
issues of amalgamation of various technical functions. We are therefore concerned
at how the council plans to manage demand on the call centre and prevent callers
being passed ‘from pillar to post’.
270 In addition, the new confirm system offers many modules which should allow
highways inspectors and CEOs to monitor all streetscene tasks. These staff have
already been equipped with hand held devices that are to be linked to Flare and
confirm in October 2003. However, we were not made aware of any plans to cross-
train highways inspectors and CEOs so that any issues in a particular locality can
be picked up by one officer rather than through the need for a separate site visit.
We were not made aware of any risk assessment exercise prior to the confirm
project commencing in few weeks time.
271 The main physical access point for callers is the Civic Centre reception at
Hounslow which is shortly to be revamped and various receptions integrated as
one stop/first stop shop so callers get dealt with quicker and reduce duplication.
272 We found that the information on wider community needs is only collected
infrequently through corporate mechanisms such as the biannual residents’
surveys. Consultation with non users and hard to reach groups is particularly weak.
This makes it difficult for Hounslow to determine ‘what matters’ to users with any
273 In our discussions with local residents and disability group representatives, we
found that where the views of service users have been sought, for example in
environmental projects, the council does not always make use of their feedback.
The council recognises that disability issues are not always at the forefront of
environmental projects, a feeling shared by the disability forum representative.
274 Highways priorities are agreed at local area committees. However, we found a
lack of awareness of area committees in our discussion with local residents. This
means that customer views are not helping to determine the proper focus for the
275 These issues should be partly resolved through implementation of the council’s
communication strategy and establishment of a representative residents’ panel as
detailed in paragraph 204.
p 42 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
276 We conclude that the council is making some progress on priority areas such as
street cleanliness, highway repairs, recycling and waste minimisation. However, the
council’s understanding of what users and residents expect is not complete and
though it is partially delivering in a number of areas there are concerns over
sustainability and impact. There are some key factors that require further attention,
not least the need for a comprehensive investment programme in highways and
capacity and knowledge issues around the call centre transfer.
Capacity and systems to deliver improvement
277 Successful councils have sound performance management systems and effective
financial management including flexibility to move money and people to tackle the
most important problems. They have clear lines of accountability for action and
have the skills to build effective partnerships to help bring about improvements
278 To support the corporate priority of ‘enhancing the environment’ the council has
allocated a lead executive councillor to be accountable for this portfolio.
279 Business critical performance indicators are reported to the Executive and
corporate management team quarterly. SM&PP management team meets monthly
to review the department’s business plan, business critical indicators and the BVIP.
Monthly financial reports are provided by the Head of Finance who also reports
quarterly to the borough treasurer.
280 The scrutiny committee also receives regular updates of BVIP implementation
and has recently made recommendations following a study in streetscene services.
281 There is a much stronger emphasis on performance management than was
evident during the last audit commission inspection in 2002. There is evidence that
the staff development and appraisal system is being applied and that a practical
approach is being taken to using the system with frontline staff. A monthly review
process operates between the EDS operational manager and supervisors who then
verbally communicate necessary information to the operatives.
282 However the performance management system lacks criteria to measure the
success of council’s proposed improvements. For example, there is currently no co-
ordinated visual assessment of streetscene across the borough to establish the
level of investment required and to measure impact of enhancements which are
283 There are positive working relationships and regular review meetings with
contractors commissioned by the community environment team:
EDS for street cleansing and refuse collection.
CIP for highway grounds and tree maintenance.
ECT for recycling.
284 The SM&PP management team have re-designated a vacant performance
monitoring post as performance management and service improvement officer
(currently being advertised) to support managers in developing improvement
initiatives. In addition, the recent appointment of head of streetcare division should
free up senior management time to focus on strategic and resource issues.
285 The council has commissioned external expertise to add capacity, for example, to
undertake the market analysis of collection arrangements, and assist with the
preparation of the street lighting PFI bid.
286 The implementation of the new integrated IT system offers potential for further
enhancements. We welcome this investment in the latest technology which has the
potential to map out various streetscene activities on GPS/GIS30 systems and offers
GPS – Global positioning system GIS – Geographic information system.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 43
the potential for generic inspection and enforcement service as well as providing
real time management information systems.
287 The new IT system offers the potential for a re-engineering of access to, and
delivery of, frontline services and the council’s various ‘eyes and ears’ roles. Such
an exercise could potentially bring considerable cost savings and improved
services for users. For example, through streamlining common inspection
processes, adopting generic systems and procedures, and by pooling resources,
the services can be significantly reshaped. We address this in our
288 As commented earlier in paragraph 255, the council lacks a long term
improvement plan. We were confused by the presentation of the present best value
improvement plan which is short term (running to 2004) and lacks SMART31
targets. The plan needs to be simplified, completed actions removed, and key
events mapped out (for example, the procurement strategy and operational
changes) over the next three-five years recognising that the next six months will be
a critical period. As a number of key actions are interlinked, we propose that these
might be best managed using project management methodology similar to that
being used for the confirm system implementation. We address this in our
289 The budget setting process for 2004/05 is only just beginning and a new process
will be used following agreement to the Leader’s proposals prior to the July recess.
A timetable for joint meetings has been set to mid-October. We were given no
indication as to where streetscene services will sit in the order of priorities, and
hence what the likely level of financial investment is likely to be.
290 The council has not yet resolved single status issues to remove the two-tier
workforce. This needs to be resolved by April 2004. The job evaluation of manual
workers has not recognised the physical nature of work and particular skills
needed, and as a result has brought a lower wage structure. If manual workers lose
bonus payments, some staff could lose £6,000. The council will need to put in place
contingency arrangements should this not be adequately resolved.
291 In conclusion, we found increasing emphasis on performance management and
reporting systems both at the executive and at departmental level. Investment in
the new confirm IT system offers potential for further developments however
system capability has not been fully realised. The uncertainty in respect of funding
could constrain the council’s ability to invest in streetscene services.
Integration of best value into day to day management
292 Continuous improvement should be seen as part of the day job, with best value
integrated with other council performance management processes, not treated as
293 The council has achieved some recent improvements in a number of customer-
facing services. These include:
removal of abandoned vehicles;
repairs of dangerous roads;
missed collections (black sacks, green box and green waste); and
repairs to faulty street lights.
SMART = Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time limited.
p 44 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
294 However, performance in respect of highway maintenance of non-principal roads
has remained fairly static since 2001/02.
295 The BVIP is now a working document that is reviewed at monthly SM&PP
management meetings, and forms a key part of the department’s business plan
activity. Performance management is being used to drive improvement, particularly
in respect of the Executive’s priorities.
296 The council is exploring ways of making better use of resources, however, the
outcomes of this have not yet been measured in terms of customer perception.
297 We found that staff are focused on operational activities and in the absence of
clear priorities are doing what they think they need to do. We found that while
managers are focused on day to day operational problems that their capacity to
look at wider strategic issues to ensure services improve was unclear.
298 Although Hounslow council carries out annual resident surveys, consultation and
comparisons tend to be done in an ad-hoc manner, rather than systematically as
part of the planning and performance management systems. The information is not
consistently acted upon. Learning opportunities are therefore being missed.
299 In conclusion, we welcome the steps taken by the council to enhance the local
environment. A number of further enhancements are in progress or are planned
including the various income generation schemes. Taken together, these can aid
the service improvements that the council desires.
300 Nevertheless, there are a number of key factors that can undermine its ability to
improve, in particular:
the lack of investment in highway maintenance;
income generation initiatives are yet to produce a positive outcome;
there are no contingency plans for managing additional demands on the call
centre, and implications of single status;
procurement decisions have yet to be made; and
the service improvement plan does not cover the medium to longer term with
appropriate timescales, targets and outcome measures.
301 In absence of a coherent service improvement plan covering the next three to five
years, the council lacks clear measures of success to assess the delivery of its
priorities. Timescales, milestones and outcome targets need to be established and
integrated with the performance management framework.
302 We therefore conclude that the prospects for improvements are uncertain.
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 45
The purpose of a best value inspection is to make two judgements. The first is
how good is the service being inspected? The second is what are the prospects
for improvement? We carried out a range of activities to enable us to reach our
Before going on site and during our visit, we reviewed various documents that the
council provided for us. These included:
previous inspection report 2002;
best value review improvement plan for streetscene;
street management & public protection business plan 2003/04;
service improvement plans;
best value performance plan 2003-2004; and
Reality checks undertaken
When we went on site we carried out a number of different checks, building on
the work described above, in order to get a full picture of how good the service is.
These on-site reality checks were designed to gather evidence about what it is
like to use the service and to see how well it works. We also followed up on
issues relating to the management of the review and the improvements flowing
from it. Our reality checks included:
street lighting inspections;
visit to Space Waye civic amenity site;
visits to various locations in the borough on a number of occasions;
a tour around the borough with council officers; and
focus groups with residents.
p 46 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
List of people interviewed
We met a range of people involved with the service:
Rebecca Behrendt Community Environment Team Manager
Jane Boyd Union Representative
Environment Portfolio Holder
Kevin Chapman Operational Manager, Highway Maintenance DSO (EDS)
John Chesters ECT, Recycling Operations Manager
Andy Clements Lead Officer, Design and Standards
Andy Fielding Assistant Director, Public Protection
Stephen Ferry CIP
Rob Gibson Corporate Environmental Policy Officer
Lucy Griffiths Environmental Strategy Officer
Josie Holt Hounslow Homes
Suresh Kamath Director of Environment Services, SM&PP
Peter Kent Highways Client Manager
Operational Manager, Street Cleansing and Refuse
Councillor Val Lamey Scrutiny Member and Chair, WLWA
Richard Lugg Union Representative
Mike Nicholls WLWA
Louise Oliver Acting NRSWA Liaison Officer
Head of Customer Services and Performance
Andrew Porter Street Lighting Team
Fred Robinson Assistant Director, Street Management
Mel Smith Environment Accountant
Tom Stannard Policy and Performance Manager
Trevor Watkins Client Recycling/Waste Policy Officer
Richard Woods Lead Client Recycling/Waste Policy Officer
Community environment officers, highways inspectors
and Neighbourhood Warden
LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection p 47
Focus group Frontline telephone/reception staff
Recycling collection operatives and recycling supervisor,
Focus group Refuse collection operatives
Focus group Residents
Focus group Street cleaning operatives
Focus group Street cleansing/refuse collection supervisors
p 48 LB Hounslow - Streetscene whole service inspection
Improving public services
The Government has placed a duty upon local councils to deliver services to
clear standards – of cost and quality – by the most economic, efficient and
effective means available. 32 Best value is a challenging framework that is
designed to improve local services. Councils are required to assess their own
performance and put in place measures to ensure continuous improvement in
all of their services.
Councils must show that they have applied the 4Cs of best value:
challenging why and how a service is being provided;
comparing their performance with others’ (including organisations in the
private and voluntary sectors);
embracing fair competition as a means of securing efficient and effective
consulting local taxpayers, customers and the wider business
The Government has decided that each council should be scrutinised by an
independent inspectorate. The Audit Commission performs this role.
The purpose of the inspection, and of this report, is to:
enable the public to see whether best value is being delivered;
enable the council to see how well it is doing;
enable the Government to see how well its policies are working in practice;
identify failing services where remedial action may be necessary; and
identify and disseminate best practice.
This report has been prepared by the Audit Commission (‘the Commission’) following an inspection
under Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999, and issued in accordance with its duty under
Section 13 of the 1999 Act.