Not enough accountability in South Jesmond, say residents
South Jesmond residents have accused councillors of lacking a plan to tackle a range of perennial problems facing the ward. They have also complained about a lack of accountability following the decision to make ward meetings annual.
The main concerns raised at last month’s South Jesmond ward meeting were over recycling and bin collection, student behaviour, and the cleanliness of South Jesmond, especially in the area surrounding Osborne Road.
In response, councillors Felicity Mendelson and Lesley Storey outlined a range of initiatives aimed at tackling these issues.
Communal bins have been introduced to South Jesmond in an effort to increase recycling and Keep Jesmond Clean has increased efforts to remind students to maintain their bins. However the communal bins have seen a rise in “dumping” and lower recycling rates.
In response to anti-social behaviour from students and Osborne Road bar customers, the councillors introduced two police officers — from the Operation Oak taskforce which deploys extra police on Wednesdays and weekends — to discuss the extra measures being taken to address the usual noise-related concerns.
However, several residents complained that these concerns are the same as raised in previous meetings, with one resident claiming, “There does not seem to be any clear plan”, and another questioning “How are you going to prevent these concerns being raised again at the next meeting?”
Following the meeting, Councillor Felicity Mendelson told JesmondLocal: “It’s a shame that the same issues do come up every year around student anti-social behaviour and bins” but that “there is a lot of activity going on behind the scenes… to address and analyse any problems that occur so that they can be reported immediately by residents, including fellow students and that the complaints will be followed up on the night by Operation Oak.”
Mendelson added: “In some ways the problems are inevitable, as so many new student residents move into Jesmond each year. It would be the same in any area with such a high turnover of tenants moving into so many HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy).”
At the meeting there were further complaints that the new once-a-year format of the ward meeting meant there was less chance for residents to hold councillors to account on these issues and report their concerns.
In response, Mendelson pointed towards the reductions to the city council’s overall budget that have forced this switch, but said that the South Jesmond team is committed to holding regular neighbourhood meetings aside from the AGM, offering “a better engagement with a broader range of residents at a neighbourhood level than we used to when ward committees were more frequent.”