Council slammed for 'outrageous' scheme asking for volunteers to clear city weeds
The council has been told to weed the pavements itself after an "outrageous" scheme asking for volunteers to help do the task by hand.
Brighton and Hove City Council has come under fire for calling for “weed warrior” volunteers to help its staff clear the city’s 975,000km of pavements.
It has been trialling manual techniques such as mechanical sweepers, industrial grade strimmers and “good old fashioned hoes” since the decision to ban toxic chemical weedkillers in 2019, under the Labour administration.
Robert Nemeth, Conservative councillor for Wish Ward, said the scheme is asking the public to “bail out the council” over Labour’s original policy.
Laura King, an independent candidate who is expected to stand for election in Hanover and Elm Grove in May, branded the call for volunteers as “outrageous”.
She said: “Not only have they annoyed people for the last four years, they have not had a system in place. If you stop using chemicals, you have to have an alternative in place. They obviously didn’t.
“There are alternatives but it seems like they weren’t ready and didn’t have enough staff. That has led to four years of hell for residents with people. People have been hospitalised with broken bones and dogs have been sick due to grass seeds.
“There are issues with public safety and insurance, this is a statutory duty not an optional extra. It’s not like going to volunteer in a nature reserve at your own risk.”
Cllr Robert Nemeth added: “While I hugely support all fellow community volunteers and would never dream of allowing weeds outside my own home or shop, I can’t help but feel that the public are being asked to bail out the council over Labour’s absolutely disastrous pavement non-weeding policy.
“Councils have a statutory duty to maintain pavements for safety reasons and the current method no doubt puts the council in breach, and obviously looks atrocious. Perhaps those who support the current policy should be doing the weeding themselves.”
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The weeding volunteers would be trained and given tools for the task.
A council spokesman said: “There is a national shortage of manual workers and it’s not been easy for us to fill vacancies in our street cleaning team.
“So we’re delighted to have now filled all six of our permanent posts for weed clearing.
“Our team is hard at work every day clearing weeds from our roads.
"We’ve tried out a range of machines to help clear weeds. There have been operational issues with a number of them.
“But we are now making good use of mechanical sweepers, industrial grade strimmers and weed rippers as well as good old fashioned hoes.
“We are also looking to have another trial of a machine that uses steam to kill weeds.
“We also feel our weed warriors scheme has a big part to play – not just in tackling weeds but also in building community spirit and offering people a new, valuable and sociable role to volunteer for.
“The council’s decision in 2019 to end the use of glyphosate pesticides was agreed unanimously. There can be no going back on this commitment.”