Keeping city centre clean is vital to Sunderland's long-term economic success, says council boss

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Keeping the heart of Sunderland clean is vital to the city's long-term economic prospects, says the city council's top man.

Chief Executive Patrick Melia visited Keel Square to see for himself how a deep clean of the city centre is progressing.

Patrick Melia (right) tries out the new pressure spray under the watchful eye of John Bradley

Patrick Melia (right) tries out the new pressure spray under the watchful eye of John Bradley

The council and Sunderland BID have recruited an army of volunteers to help carry out a programme of cleaning.

Funding is coming from an additional £460,000 invested into frontline services by the council as part of its 2019/2020 budget, which is being supplemented by £48,600 secured from the Government’s High Street Community Clean Up Fund.

The project has already covered Park Lane, Olive Street and Derwent Street.

Mr Melia said the city centre was vital as a showcase to attract investment into Sunderland.

Patrick Melia (left) with council worker John Bradley

Patrick Melia (left) with council worker John Bradley

"Where we are standing, there is the new Hays Travel office - later this year, there will be 500 people working in there," he said.

"In September or October, there will be people in the first building on the Vaux site.

"There are new people coming in to work in the city centre and we want them to have a really good impression and to be proud.

"This is about how we present the city, it is about selling the city - if you keep the city centre clean, you will attract more jobs for your residents."

Clean Streets logo

Clean Streets logo

The reaction to the work had been unanimously good, he said: "The people I have spoken to have been really positive - they are really pleased the council has recognised there is an issue in the city centre and has been proactive about it.

"And there has been a really good reaction to the fact that we are taking enforcement action against people who littler, or drop cigarette ends and chewing gum.

"The reaction has been excellent from the retail sector, businesses and the public."

In the first week alone, the deep clean has already seen 16 people fined £150 each for dropping cigarette butts; one person fined £150 for dropping a food wrapper; 920 square metres of pavements in the Park Lane, Olive Street and Derwent Street area scrubbed and hot washed to tackle staining, gum build up and graffit; sStickers and flyposting removed from lamp posts; grime hot washed off city bins, seats and traffic signs in Park Lane to remove unpleasant smells, and hundreds of cigarette butts and half a tonne of litter removed from bins, pavements and shrubbery.

The council has invested in new equipment for cleaning staff, including a mobile power wash, which Mr Melia tried out for himself.

"If you are going to do the job well, you have got to invest in front line services," he said.

"You need to give the people on the front line the tools to do the job. Staff have been giving us feedback about what they need to do the job properly."

The Echo launched its Clean Streets campaign last year, to support the council in its drive to keep Sunderland tidy.

Mr Melia pledged work to keep the city centre looking its best would continue after the deep clean had finished.

"We will do the whole of the city centre and then go back round again. We will keep cleaning and keep cleaning, we will keep the enforcement action going so we can maintain the situation," he said.