Austerity Britain risks becoming a dirtier Britain: what we can do

hearts clean upOver the last few weeks, co-operatives across the country came together to clean up local streets, parks and waterways as part of this year’s Co-operatives Fortnight.

Themed the ‘Big Co-op Clean’, Co-operatives Fortnight is a national campaign, and clean-ups were organised from Ipswich to Inverness, with co-operative retailers, pubs and housing providers all taking part.

With our members, Co-operatives UK organises Co-operatives Fortnight each year, focusing this year on demonstrating how co-operatives make a difference locally.

Our Big Co-op Clean came on the back of new survey results we commissioned, showing that one in three people (31%) report that litter on the streets has increased, compared to this time last year.

Summer is when litter is most visible and the trends are on the increase, with a 20% hike in fast food waste compared to last year. The state of our streets reflect the state of society – if we don’t co-operate by not littering or value the work of street cleaners who clear up litter, ‘austerity Britain’ risks becoming ‘dirty Britain’.

The need to value the work of our cleaners is echoed by my colleagues at Unison, where senior national officer Mike Short says:

This figure shows that the government must start reinvesting in local services such as street cleaning and public toilets. Since 2010 local authorities have had £11.5bn wiped from their budgets and half a million local government jobs have gone, so it’s no wonder that dirty streets are becoming a problem.

We need collective action, both by the state and at a community and workplace level. Co-operatives are organisations owned and run together by us all, so it’s no surprise perhaps that co-ops are part of the story in working in their local areas to tidy up nearby streets and areas.

We’re still getting information in on the impact of the Big Co-op Clean, but what’s coming through is strong local action from co-operatives right across the country:

–       In Chelmsford, the local co-operative society organised a clean-up of Central Park, with 50 volunteers collecting over 100 bags of rubbish.

–       In Hebden Bridge a local co-op pub cleaned up the woods, finishing with a well-deserved co-operative pint.

–       In Manchester, a local worker owned retailer organised a clean-up of the local cycleway, providing helpers with soup along the way.

–       In Scotland, the local co-operative organised for members to tidy and paint the playground in Coupar Angus, which was representing Scotland in the Britain in Bloom competition.

The Big Co-op Clean has not just been part of a fabulous fortnight, but helped to show how co-ops make a difference in their local communities, day-in, day-out.

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