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Fears over graffiti team cutbacks.

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CUTBACKS planned for the council's emergency response team will hit graffiti removal across the borough, it is claimed.

But the fears have been dismissed by Councillor Phil Thomas, council cabinet member for highways and environmental services, who said cleaning graffiti remains a top priority.

The budget reductions, which will see the number of officers dealing with graffiti cut from seven to five and no service on Sundays, is being discussed this week between union and council officials.

Staff concerns have been highlighted in an e-mail to Labour councillor Pat Ryan after he raised problems at Ormsbey Court in Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood.

The e-mail says: "Over the past ten years the best way we have found to discourage these people is to carry out proactive work and remove all graffiti seen as soon as possible.

"We were managing to keep on top of things this time last year when there were ten of us, but due to the restructure and cutbacks last year, we are struggling to keep up.

"It is a serious worry as there are more cuts approaching the team this year."

Kevin Simmonds, secretary of the Croydon branch of the Unite union, said in recent years the team had been the victim of its own success.

He claimed because clear-up rates were ahead of targets, the council had decided a couple of years ago to reduce the size of the team.

Mr Simmonds said: "There is no doubt the cuts will affect the service and the Tory councillors are aware of that."

The council's specific policy is to clean racist or offensive graffiti within 24 hours.

Mr Simmonds said: "Now if something racist or sexist goes up on a Saturday, it won't be cleaned on Sunday."

Cllr Thomas said: "I have always been very keen that we keep the borough spick and span."

He claimed that the amount of graffiti had reduced over the years. He said: "We still feel a six days a week service will be more than sufficient to clean any graffiti."

Fears over graffiti team cutbacks.


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