REVEALED: Sheffield residents lodge more than 6000 complaints around tree felling, waste management and other gripes

Tree protesters Alan Story and Arthur Baker.
Tree protesters Alan Story and Arthur Baker.

Fed-up residents complained more than 6000 times on a wide range of issues including tree felling, dog fouling and waste management in less than three years, The Star can reveal.

Complaints to do with Sheffield Council's Streets Ahead scheme - which includes the felling of thousands of city trees as part of a controversial roads maintenance programme – totalled 4167 between April 2015 and September 2017.

Louise Haigh MP and trouble in Meersbrook Park Road.

Louise Haigh MP and trouble in Meersbrook Park Road.

This was the issue that got residents' backs up the most and accounted for about two-thirds of all complaints lodged with Sheffield Council or council partners by members of the public.

The Streets Ahead programme, being delivered by private company Amey in a deal with the council, has seen numerous protesters arrested for allegedly attempting to stop trees felling and some said the high number of complaints was an indication of just how unpopular the scheme is.

However, Sheffield Council stressed that the Streets Ahead scheme encompasses a wide range of services and when the figures are broken down the number of complaints about tree maintenance specifically numbers less than 400.

But the figures have only served to strengthen campaigner's resolve to call for the programme to be axed.

Alan Story, aged 70, a member of the protest group No Stump City, said: "These figures shows the huge amount of public anger towards the scheme. .

"Pressure is mounting on the council and they should reconsider the whole deal with Amey. It's time to kill PFI deals, not trees."

His comments come after Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh called for Amey to halt tree felling pending further investigation following a number of flash points involving tree protesters and the council contractors in Meersbrook Park Road.

The dispute over trees has its roots in a £2 billion private finance initiative agreement between the council and Amey to fell and replace around 6000 trees on city streets. The council says they are being removed because they are diseased or dangerous, but protesters say many of the trees are healthy and should remain.

The figures were revealed as part of a Freedom of Information request to the authority.

In total, 6364 complaints were made to 21 council departments or authority partner's such as Amey or Veolia.

Aside from Streets Ahead, complaints to do with waste management handled by Veolia were the second highest with 655 registered gripes. Issues with adult social care was next with 385 complaints.

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said a certain percentage of the complaints would be to do with residents asking the authority to intervene to to fix a problem rather than being gripes about the way the council itself is delivering a service.

She added: "It is important to be clear that these figures do not only include complaints about our service, but also issues which require work – such as someone phoning to complain about a pothole on their road, which we will then repair.

"The council recognises that on a contract of this size (Streets Ahead), customer contacts of this level are to be expected, particularly during the initial five year contract period between 2012 and 2017 when a significant amount of work is taking place across the city, including the replacement of 68, 000 street lights."

She added people simply requesting information about works are sometimes registered as complaints.

The spokeswoman said the 4167 issues raised around Streets Ahead included 369 about tree maintenance, 123 about road maintenance and 111 about street cleaning such as dog fouling. There were 1, 414 cases to do with street lighting.

Veolia did not reply to our requests for comment.

Table

Total number of complaints to Sheffield Council/council partners between April 2015 and September 2017 – 6364

Complaints regarding Streets Ahead between April 2015 and September 2017 – 4167

Complaints regarding Veolia between April 2015 and September 2017 – 655

Complaints regarding adult social care between April 2015 and September 2017 – 385.