We want to see a smarter Sunderland – that’s your number one objective for the city.
Echo readers have been having their say on a host of key issues that affect our everyday lives as part of our Big City survey.
Almost 1,000 of you, from across all ages, took part in answering our questions on everything from crime and health to traffic and leisure.
And what came out as your main priority for Sunderland was to see a tidier city for everyone to be proud of.
When we asked what three areas are most in need of increased spending by the Government and city council, it was cleanliness of public spaces that led the way (47.8%) followed by healthcare and social care.
Cleanliness scored lowly in the survey, with 33% of respondents describing it as very poor and another 33% rating it as poor. By contrast, just 1.2% thought it very good, and only a further 9% gave it a good rating.
Sunderland City Council says it very much shares the views of people who want a cleaner Wearside – but says its efforts are hampered by government cuts to its budgets.
Coun Michael Mordey, Portfolio Holder for City Services, said: “Much as we would welcome additional funding to help us keep the city clean, sadly, given this government’s record, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“Due to Government cuts in or budget, the council now employs 4,000 fewer staff than we did in 2010. Areas where this has had a particularly noticeable impact for the public is grass cutting and street cleansing services, which have been cut by £4,829,238 since 2010.
“This 38% reduction resulted in £2,350,000 being cut from staffing budgets in 2016 leading to the loss of 86 full time employees and 24 seasonal workers.”
Coun Mordey also urged Wearsiders to do their bit to help keep the city clean and pointed to the recent example of Sunderland College students taking part in a mass clean-up around the Park Lane market.
He added: “But we’d also encourage everyone to do their bit by not dropping litter in the first place and by taking their litter or dog waste home with them if a litter bin or dog waste bin is full.
“The vast majority of our residents are very responsible and take a pride in their community but there are still a few who spoil it for everyone else by dropping litter or dumping their waste, so we’d encourage anyone who does see anyone fly tipping to report it via https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/article/12416/Report-fly-tipping
“Since April 2017 the Environmental Enforcement Team have carried out 3,668 investigations into environmental crimes across the city, including littering, dog fouling and fly-tipping.
“322 formal warnings have been issued, three statutory notices and 82 Fixed Penalty Notice have been served. Several further cases are pending court action.
“We already have some fantastic examples of people doing some great work to keep our city clean and litter free, like Sunderland College students working with Sunderland’s Business Improvement District and the City Council in a three day clean-up of the city centre in October, voluntary and community groups doing a great job helping with local and neighbourhood litter picks, and the Box Youth project, where youngsters are upcycling furniture and other household goods that might otherwise get thrown out.
“We can keep this city clean but it’s something we need to do together.”
Along with litter issues, the subject of bin collections and recycling remains an issue for those who took part in our Big City survey.
Some 23.8% of respondents described the services as very poor and a further 22% rated them as poor. Again, by contrast, only 5.4% thought them to be very good with a further 18.6% saying they were good.
Coun Mordey added: “Sunderland was one of the last councils to fall into line with the rest of country in making the move to alternate weekly collections, and we had no choice but to do so when the grant funding that helped support weekly general waste collections ended in March last year. However the decision to switch to alternate weekly collections last April has resulted in us being able to plough £500,000 back into key frontline services including grass cutting, removing fly tipping and environmental enforcement.
“The majority of councils now have alternate weekly collections, because it has helped to improve recycling rates and allowed savings to be diverted to other services which are under pressure, such as caring for children, elderly and vulnerable people.
“We remain very much committed to working with communities to keep the city clean. Household recycling rates are continuing to rise, with 30% or three in every ten tonnes of waste going for recycling compared with 26 % last year, and just last week we launched a recycling and rewards campaign to encourage residents to become more environmentally friendly.
“A lot of people in Sunderland do a great job of recycling but we have a government target to recycle 50% of our household waste, so we still need to do more.
“Reducing and recycling more waste in our blue bins, and putting non-recyclable waste in our green bins so recycling is not spoiled, can save up to £100 per tonne in waste disposal costs.”