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WORK LIFE - WHAT'S IN A NAME

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Suzanne Simmons-Lewis looks at trends in job titles ...
Suzanne Simmons-Lewis looks at trends in job titles

Head of Streetscene and public protection

Diminishing the traffic chaos caused by statutory undertakers digging up the roads in an arbitrary fashion is one of Des Waters' many roles.

As head of streetscene and public protection at Southwark LBC, he integrates and co-ordinates all aspects of street management. Under this title Mr Waters is responsible for a vast array of services, including the provision of highways, street lighting, trees, parking enforcement, traffic schemes, the control of statutory undertakers - companies digging up the road - and aspects of community safety such as community wardens.

Mr Waters says his job is closely connected with the other buzzword, 'liveability'.

The term 'streetscene' emerged around three years ago.

He says: 'The Audit Commission produced a report, following its best value inspections, that looked at a range of environmental services. What was clear from some council inspections was that the best-performing councils were able to integrate many of their environmental services because they looked at the street as a whole.

'It produced a report about streetscene which was picked up by a the Commission for the Built Environment, which took this further by recommending all councils better co-ordinate their activities on the street.

'Ten years ago, when compulsory competitive tendering was around, a lot of these services were outsourced and there was a lack of integration. Your tree services would be run by one contractor, highways by another and lighting by another.

'We have just started a£6m investment in our roads where we are looking at the whole street. We are resurfacing, taking away the clutter and putting up new signage. If there are any trees that need replanting this is also done. It's about looking at the design of the whole street. Under the old system, this opportunity would have been lost.'

Paul Tonks, public services director at Civica, says streetscene officers are usually linked to the environment department in councils. Although Mr Waters is an environmental health officer by profession, a streetscene officer could just as easily be a head of engineering or head of parking services, says Mr Tonks.

To define the term 'streetscene', he says: 'We have adopted a sensory approach, the visual aspect of an area, street or space, anything that you can see, hear, touch. If you hear glass breaking, see graffiti or if it's dark and damp - that gives you a good idea of how to tackle the environment.

Mr Tonks says the joining up of areas under streetscene is still relatively new: 'Southwark is probably ahead of many councils in adding community safety [wardens] into its street management services.'

Other councils tend to link waste management into the streetscene portfolio.

He adds: 'In the last nine months, more head of streetscene and waste management jobs have appeared. It is part of moving the agenda to the front line, to create a greater customer focus. It is easier to do this in unitary and metropolitan authorities, but in districts this is slower.

However, many are now looking to link parking and traffic management with environmental services to avoid a duplication of work.'

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