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Graffiti 1

THE GRAFFITI AND THE ZEBRA CROSSING

12-03-2008

We’ve featured numerous ingenious attempts to deal with graffiti on The Stirrer before now, but in Wednesbury the locals just want it removed. Trouble is, as Lynne Hawthorne reports, it’s the wrong kind of graffiti.

Have you heard the one about the graffiti and the zebra crossing? Well, you would have if you lived in Sandwell, or Wednesbury to be precise.

In early February, Union Street (our main shopping area) was vandalised.

The length of the street was daubed in graffiti on pavements, on walls and on shop shutters. Bright blue and silver paint in unattractive designs festooned the area, making it look rundown and uncared for. It was hideous.

The Express and Star featured the desecration and included comments from annoyed locals.

The very next day, a Sunday, a team from Sandwell Council inspected the damage. Well, several blokes in overalls shuffled around with hands in pockets and not a notebook or a camera between ‘em, despite the fact that some of the little darlings who’d perpetrated this criminal damage had actually signed their names. Quite.

Result? Absolutely nothing has been done. This offensive slur on our town is still there. So I’ve contacted the council and enquired about progress.

The man responsible for removing graffiti is a little elusive, but I finally spoke to him after 3 days of trying. He thought it had been done. Actually, he only said that after he’d said that he didn’t know anything about it, even though various agencies have reported it. He actually asked if it had been re-done by youths!

Then came the “ah…well….” moment. It turns out that the council can only remove graffiti from paved areas and bins that they own, as they are not allowed to touch private property.

Thus, shopkeepers and landlords are expected to foot the bill for damage to their own properties, even though they contribute significantly to the economic livelihood of the town. Except I don’t think that anyone has told them this.

Curiously, however, the opposite is also possible. There is a telephone electrical junction box at the top of my street that is routinely daubed in graffiti. Two years ago, when I reported racist graffiti, it suddenly became the problem of British Telecom when I said that the slogans were anti-white.

It seems there wasn’t a tick box for ‘that kind’ of graffiti and, anyway, it was ‘private property.’ Today, during the conversation with the council’s graffiti honcho, the racist graffiti can be removed because it’s suggesting various activities for the Police to try.

Wednesbury town centre is also being treated to a zebra crossing in Market Place. It’s very necessary and long-overdue, but work finally got underway at the start of this week. The contractors have dug up long sections of the pavement on both sides of the road and left it. For days.

It is now even more dangerous to cross the road than before, as pedestrians are steered to the widest part of the road. You have to be a bit nippy to dodge the traffic and with a pushchair or in a wheelchair, you must be taking your life into your hands.

Why has it been left untouched for days? Well, electricity is needed for the Belisha beacons and the electrical contractors were unable to site them in the original pavements, so different contractors have had to come out and extend the pavements.

They have then had to leave the pavements in a state of disarray until the electrical contractors can return to ascertain if the site is suitable for electrical points.

If it is, they will fit the gubbins; if not, the pavement chappies have got to come back. When the beacons are installed and the pavements finally reconstructed, then even more contractors have got to be employed to paint the flaming zebra crossing!

Have you ever heard anything like it?!!! How many blasted weeks will that take?

All this competitive tendering and contracting out has merely elongated the process of getting any works completed and turned the operation of local government into a farce. What, with people who don’t answer their ‘phones/ messages/ e-mails and the committee-to-appoint-a-committee-to-make-a-committee-decision, nothing ever seems to get done and no-one seems to know anything about anything.

For goodness sake, let’s get some sense and perspective back into local government and start achieving the value-for-money we keep getting promised.

Either that or turn the whole thing into a job creation scheme for the youths with aerosols and get them to paint in the lines when the diggers and re-surfacers have finished!

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