A big boost in the budget

Paul Thrupp, BCC Chairman, asks: What will Chancellor Sajid Javid’s next Budget, on

March 11, mean for our sector?

The Chancellor has already given us some very strong hints about what will and what won’t be in the next budget. He’s said that the Treasury will ‘prioritise the environment’ and will also focus on health and schools, and that he will make use of low borrowing rates to spend more on public services.

He said spending an ‘extra £100bn of investment in infrastructure over the next few years would be transformative for every part of our country’. Commentators have said that this marks the end of the age of austerity.

Extra spending can’t come a minute too soon – though there must be doubts about whether this is enough to repair the damage austerity has wreaked over the past decade.

Following the financial crisis of 2007/8, public finances have been squeezed, and the cuts have fallen particularly heavily on local Government, with one piece of research saying that town hall funding has been cut by the equivalent of £287 per person on average. Some local councils have passed on the cuts to the street cleaning, environmental, waste and recycling services they provide.

For example, last year Stoke on Trent City Council agreed to axe 42 jobs in the departments responsible for street cleaning and maintaining parks and greenspaces, whilst other councils have reduced bin collections or introduced charges for some types of waste collection.

Provision of public toilets has also suffered and, as an example, in nine out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs (Wigan being the exception) spending on public loos is said to have fallen by 92% over the past decade.

Any reduction in environment, recycling and waste services is a concern to the British Cleaning Council (BCC) and our members. Keeping our streets, parks and other public areas clean is hugely important to the public and, of course to our environment. People also want a regular, free, and efficient bin and waste collection, and these services are vital to maintaining public health.

Being able to find a clean, pleasant public toilet when out and about is a basic human necessity. This is where we can raise awareness, and one of our BCC members, the British


Toilet Association, have done some sterling work in bringing the decline in public toilets to the nation’s attention.

It’s also worth noting that the cleaning of schools has not escaped reductions, with schedules, specifications, personnel and costs being squeezed. In Scotland last year, a survey found that hundreds of schools have suffered a drop in frequency or quality of cleaning due to budget cuts, with many stressing that this drop in standards was not due to a fault on the cleaners behalf but rather the reduction in the cleaning time they are allocated for each task.

This is very concerning, because cleanliness is important if children and staff are going to stay healthy and avoid missing time due to sickness.

Hospitals and medical facilities are another area where maintaining high levels of cleanliness are important, and as our colleagues at the Association of Health Care Professionals (AHCP) would tell you, their work is essential in stopping the spread of infections.

What I would like to see in all these areas is a budget where more money is invested into delivering these essential environmental and cleaning services.

It’s good that health and education are being prioritised, but this should mean more than just building new hospitals and improving academic standards. And let’s hope plans for the environment include more support for local Government work around street cleaning, waste and recycling.

These areas need significant extra funding in future budgets to provide the kind of services the public want and deserve.

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