FixMyStreet is a fantastic website where you can upload (including photos) reports of litter, fly-tipping, broken glass, broken street lamps and broken paving labs, and anything else that is blighting your beautiful town or village. Created by techy experts, the reports get sent straight to your council and you are then notified of updates. If many people report the same issues (which are made public), things tend to get fixed pretty quickly. The open-source software means anyone worldwide can use their knowledge to create a similar site.
Just enter your nearest postcode, locate the problem on a map, enter the details and send it off, then they’ll email to the council on your behalf. Last month, over 31,000 problems were fixed! You can also download free goodie packs, to print our posters to let people in your community know about the site, and widgets that you can put on your local website or blog.
Reporting broken street lights is really important. Not just because it wastes public funds, but because it causes light pollution, which means birds and other mammals wake up at the wrong times (birds are now waking up at midnight to start singing, thinking it’s morning). This in turn affects migration and breeding, so reporting broken street lights is one of the best way to help our garden birds. Councils should also use wildlife-friendly lighting (with an orange hue, rather than white or blue).
how to become a local independent councillor
Of course, one way to ensure things get done (if you’re fed up of seeing local litter etc) is to become a local councillor yourself. Lots of councillors do wonderful work, but some don’t – as seen by many parks strewn with litter for months or even years. To become a councillor is fairly straightforward if you’re organised, passionate and have some time on your hands. You don’t receive a salary but you can claim expenses (including for childcare and carers if needed).
Between them, councils run around 800 services across England. Of course national government won’t simplify things, so different councils offer different services, to make life complicated:
- Schools & adult learning
- Social care for children and adults
- Housing services
- Emergency responses
- Parks and public places
- Leisure centres, gyms & swimming pools
- Environmental health & animal welfare
- Support for vulnerable people
- Recycling, rubbish & street cleaning
- Art, libraries, museums & heritage buildings
- Transport, roads & street lights
- Safe communities & crime reduction
- Planning & building regulations
Councillors have a lot more power than people think, and as well as responding to casework can also visit local people, attend meetings to vote on important matters and talk to the media. You can run as an independent councillor or join your favourite political party to run. Then you can decide whether to run for a county, district or parish council (or a London or metropolitan borough if you live in a city). To avoid confusion, at present the councils are responsible as follows:
- County councils cover education, transport, planning, fire/safety, social care, libraries, refuse and trading standards.
- District/city councils cover rubbish & recycling, Council tax, housing & planning
- Parish (village) councils cover allotments, public clocks, bus shelters, community centres, play areas, neighbour planning and grants for local charities). They can also fine people for litter, graffiti, fly-posting and not picking up dog poop.
how visionary councillors can help communities
If you are a local councillor, you could make a real difference to help reducing the complaints at Fix My Street, with some visionary local politicians! Council staff spend a lot of time and money responding to complaints. With fresh-thinking visionary councillors installed, here are ideas that could improve communities and reduce complaints:
- Make public parks child-and-pet-friendly
- Create tree-planting initiatives in cities & towns
- Restore public lidos for free swimming opportunities
- Restore dog wardens, to help animal welfare & find lost pets
- Creat a zero-tolerance campaign for litter-free towns
- Install community Terracycle recycling boxes for all to use
- Replace broken streetlights with wildlife-friendly solar lights
- Create a campaign to stop birds flying into windows
- Install free biodegradable dog poop bag stations
- Use innovative ideas to help homeless people & dogs
- Learn how to make bus transport more appealing
- Learn how to make our roads safer for wildlife
- Install ideas to take back our streets from cars
- Use ideas to help restore our independent shops
- Buy in more interesting/educational books for libraries
- Use innovative methods to restore/protect heritage buildings
- Use ideas to make towns & cities safer for women
- Create better town planning for healthy residents
- Improve accessibility for disabled residents & visitors