In 2019 Brighton & Hove City Council stopped using glyphosate. To help combat this, it invested in a small vehicle to remove pavement weeds, recruited additional staff for its street cleansing team and employed contractors to assist where necessary.
Now, it is also launching the Weed Warrior scheme to help tackle weeds and overgrown vegetation.
It says in a release about the launch: “Our hardworking Cityclean team carry out weeding throughout spring and summer, but the labour-intensive nature of manual weeding means that some areas can become overgrown.
Volunteers will work together to remove weeds in problem areas by carrying out weed management and vegetation control tasks.”
But residents online have criticised the council with comments ranging from “Oh yeah, let's do the job that we're paying you to do....makes complete sense” to “I’m launching a campaign called “collect the recycling”, I’m looking for volunteers with a big truck in Woodingdean.”
Some comments also critiqued the council going glyphosate free. One user, who has been vocal on the topic before, argued glyphosate is safe if instructions are followed and that it is still used by residents. They went on to say “Please stop spreading misinformation from your friends at the Pesticide Action Network.”
Brighton & Hove City Council stands by this decision, though. It argues it is facing unprecedented challenges including a shortage of manual workers and the immense budget gap.
Councillor Steve Davis, co-chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, told HortWeek: “We knew stopping glyphosates would lead to more weeds on paved areas. But many residents have also welcomed the weeds as habitats for insects and bees and complain when we remove them.
“There is a national shortage of manual workers. We’ve had difficulty recruiting for street cleansing positions in recent years and our Cityclean team are doing all they can to remove weeds.
“Residents and community groups in some areas of the country – including Brighton & Hove – have already been volunteering with their local councils to help remove weeds in their local areas. So in this respect our weed warrior scheme is an extension of activities that have already been happening in the city. The scheme will help us keep up with the demand of manual weeding through the spring and summer months.
“We hope the scheme provides an opportunity for residents to gain new skills, be more active, get out and about in the city and find new places to explore. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people who are also passionate about looking after our beautiful city.
“Our budgeting for 2023-24 also had to address a budget gap of more than £14 million. This has been fuelled by demand for our services, very high inflation, the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and a real-terms decrease in government funding.
“This is also the fourteenth year in a row that the council has had to address a real terms government cut to its budget, totalling more than £110 million since 2010.
“I can understand our local council tax payers feeling frustrated with such extreme funding cuts from the government.”