Councillors clashed in a fiery debate over the state of Liverpool’s streets.
As a motion was laid by the opposition Liberal Democrats calling for further action on waste and fly-tipping, members across the chamber at Liverpool Town Hall traded barbs on the city’s record of tidying the public realm. Senior members accused the ruling Labour group of being in “denial” over the city’s problems, while another referenced teen comedy film Mean Girls in retort.
As councillors urged greater enforcement, a Labour veteran intervened in the debate to urge colleagues not to "pontificate that we can do something that we can’t."
Presenting the motion, Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Carl Cashman admitted the issue of litter “isn’t sexy” but residents had the right to expect a certain level of service from the city council. He said: “People in this city are not getting the basics at the moment.
“They shouldn’t have to go past the same overflowing bin that’s been reported time and time again. They shouldn’t have to walk out of their door to littering and fly-tipping day in, day out, and especially the people shouldn’t be left to clear up this mess themselves.”
Cllr Cashman paid tribute to volunteer groups who help keep the city tidy and called on the council to back them up. He added: “What I want this council to say is we’re with you and we’re going to do what a local authority should do for you and I don’t think that is too much to ask.”
Moving an amendment, Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, cabinet member for communities, neighbourhoods and streetscene, accused the opposition of using derogatory terms and “talking down our city and talking down our staff.” Cllr Sam East, making possibly the first reference to the film Mean Girls in the Town Hall chamber, said: “The Lib Dems have got to stop trying to make Litterpool happen, it won’t happen.”
Liberal Party member, Cllr Billy Lake, said councillors had to be clear with their residents about their role in keeping Liverpool tidy. He said: “If we’re honest, we have to at some point, hold a mirror up to our communities and say ‘we are doing this to ourselves’.”
Cllr Lake said efforts to clamp down on litter had to be based in education “with some element of enforcement” to catch the “felons” who are doing it.
Cllr Alan Gibbons was unequivocal in his thoughts on how litterbugs should be dealt with. He said: “We need to say how much we’re going to fine people.” The independent member added how enforcement needed to be “hard” and it needed to “hurt” with “an amount of money that stings them” if prolific offenders were to be stopped for good.
The Orrell Park member said how in one area of his ward “40-odd bags of poop” were gathered outside one property preventing children playing outside and in one case “lined up like ducks.”
Cllr Gibbons said: “I want to metaphorically slap their backsides with a big fine that we slap on them.”
Cllr Steve Munby offered what he considered to be a reality check for some members. He said: “You aren’t going to catch people dumping by and large, you aren’t going to be able to prosecute them, so forget it, stop spouting and pretending that you can, because you can’t.
“You have to remove the rubbish as soon as it gets there if you can and put out signals to keep it clean. Let’s be honest with our citizens and do the best to keep the city clean but not pretend to pontificate that we can do something that we can't"
Cllr Pat Moloney accused the Labour group of “denial” and called on them to “open your eyes” to issues with litter. He cited the Rocket as a hotspot where he said some football fans left rubbish after getting off coaches from away games.
He added: “We’re not talking the city down, we’re talking the Labour Party down. You’ve got to acknowledge there’s a problem and you’ve got to fix it.”
Closing the debate, Cllr Cashman offered a challenge to his Labour opposite numbers. He said: “You say we’re talking the city down, you’re doing the city down.
“Look at the streets in our city at the moment and tell me you’re not doing this city down.”