Beverley Nielsen, the Lib Dem candidate for West Midlands Mayor, wants to clean up our streets by enforcing a zero-tolerance approach to littering.
She believes existing organisations, such as Neighbourhood Watch, Business Improvement Districts and residents' associations, should widen their brief to include monitoring fly-tipping and similar anti-social behaviour.
Nielsen also sees merit in an innovative approach using youngsters to get the message across that dropping gum on the streets, tossing paper coffee cups away in public, and dumping unwanted personal items through vehicle windows are socially unacceptable.
“I want our area to be welcoming and inviting, rather than strewn with litter,” she says. “One of my priorities as Mayor will be to discuss the problem with the seven local authorities and to promote best practice.
“I will also launch a region-wide campaign to stamp out littering, through education-based initiatives encouraging youngsters to tell their friends and parents off if they see them littering. I want to bring back a sense of pride to our communities.
”We're always being told that nothing can be done to tackle this issue, but I see parallels with drink-driving which for many years was a scourge in our society. However, once it was made very clear that such behaviour was unacceptable, the number of people drinking and driving fell dramatically.”
Nielsen is also keen to address another ill of contemporary life, the ever-increasing sight of chewing gum on streets and buildings.
“Cleaning up this mess costs a huge amount of money, and in these cash-strapped times, we will work with takeaway outlets, retailers and chewing gum manufacturers to come up with radical solutions to the problem,” she says.
“Fixed-term penalties are one obvious technique, but I also want to make keeping tidy more fun, so I'll introduce 'chewing gum shields' throughout the region, where people are encouraged to dispose of gum safely by putting it onto the shield, rather than the ground.
“Fly-tipping is another major challenge, which is also a health risk, and I'd persuade the seven local authorities to be far more proactive. Once piles of rubbish and household items appear on a site, they must be removed very quickly, or other people will dump their waste items there too.
“Highlighting the existence of fly-tips, through council apps and social media, would be another way to address the issue, and to be honest, I'd be quite happy to adopt a 'name and shame' approach to anyone caught using an illegal dump.”