In a recent letter to the Echo, I referred to the row over Coun Neil McEvoy calling a Fairwater resident a liar, and defying the Ombudsman’s criticism of that language. Some readers had admired Coun McEvoy for ‘straight-talking’. I pointed out that it is not straight-talking to call someone a liar when they are telling the truth, which was the case on this occasion.
But there may be a partial explanation for the conflicting claims of the resident and the councillor.
The resident claimed that there was a long-standing problem of uncollected litter on the Oakway/Hillview estate in Fairwater. Coun McEvoy claimed at the PACT meeting that it had been dealt with; the resident disagreed and had the photographs to prove it. Coun McEvoy reportedly refused to look at the pictures, so certain was he of his position.
It’s always unwise tor refuse to consider evidence that you are wrong, but what lay behind the councillor’s attitude?
The key area in dispute is the central steps leading up to and through the Hillview area (as the name suggests, it is on a hill with a view).
When the steps were upgraded a few years ago, a pleasant area of shrubs and flowers was planted alongside them.
It seems that the shrubbery is the responsibility of the Parks department, while the steps themselves are cleaned by the Street Cleansing section of the council. Both departments report to the “Director for the Built Environment” but don’t always seem to coordinate their activities.
If you’re a resident, you don’t care which part of the council deals with which part of the stairway. You just want the litter removed, and it’s the responsibility of the council.
But when street cleansers visit the estate, they don’t clean the considerable amount of litter out of the shrubbery area because it’s not their job, and if they had an accident they wouldn’t be covered.
In a well-run organisation, this would be nonsense. There is a problem, it needs to be dealt with and it may mean different teams working together or sharing responsibilities. It’s more efficient to visit an area once to deal with a litter problem and not to send different teams at different times.
Councils often seem to be bastions of bureaucratic demarcation, where it’s more than someone’s job is worth to step outside of their job description.
In the situation described, could it be that Coun McEvoy had been told that street cleaners had been to the area, without being aware that they only cleaned one half of the problem area?
Even so, this would not be an excuse for using language that the ombudsman rightly said breached the code of conduct.
This is a guest post by Paul Seligman, a resident of Fairwater