Corporate image is at the heart of the city cleansing philosophy within Leicester City Council’s Street Cleansing Division, which is managed by David Atkins.

Every employee wears a uniform, and every vehicle – including eight Swingo compact sweepers from Schmidt – is liveried and maintained in top class working condition, the sweeper manufacturer reports.

Leicester itself is proud of a commitment to the ecology, and as visitors enter the city the signs clearly state “Environment City”.

Schmidt’s Swingo sweepers play a major role in maintaining Leicester’s vision, where the streets and alleyways range from broad, boulevard pavements under mature trees, to busy commercial alleyways and terraced houses.

The team of Swingos was selected in early 1999 after a lengthy evaluation process, and examination of manufacturers’ claims to meet criteria such as the requirement to minimise downtime and maximise operating efficiency. Evaluation continues today, with a policy of random inspections as part of a “continuous improvement matrix”, which involves establishing a minimum level of cleanliness and improvements year on year – a record has been achieved in Leicester year after year.

Winning the operator vote

In addition to the criteria of cost, performance and the ability to do the job a major purchasing factor in Leicester was the opinion of drivers, Schmidt reports. They have to spend 37 hours a week in the vehicles in all types of weather. Schmidt realised that they would need to be fully trained to get the maximum benefit from the Swingo’s features, and so visits to the factory and demonstrations were held.

The design of Swingo’s ergonomic cab is stated to ensure the easy and sure operation of the brushes, matched by driving comfort and vehicle handling.

Other major factors in the purchasing decision included the manoeuvrability of Swingos with their four-wheel steer, and the ability to climb high kerbs. The large capacity hopper means that the vehicle spends more time working on the streets and pedestrian areas, and less time travelling to and from the tip.

With continuous operation and reliability being such high priorities, Schmidt and City Cleansing – which is a part of the Commercial Services Department – have a maintenance contract, which involves a full-time Schmidt employee being based in Leicester at the City Cleansing depot. His role is to carry out continuous maintenance of the fleet so that the maximum number is working all day, every day.

The working day starts at 5.45am for the early shift, followed by the rest of the team for the 7am to 3pm shift. At other times the department is ready to react quickly to call outs, such as glass and waste being found on pavements or blocking access. Finally, there is a regular night shift, making sure that the detritus left by revellers is cleared up before the people of Leicester start their working day again.

In the late autumn, the Swingos form an integral part of the eight-week leaf clearance period where a five-man team systematically clears the city’s streets and pavements of fallen leaves. These are gathered using the front-mounted brushes and the remote, hand-held Wanderhose, and sucked into the Swingo’s large hopper. When the accompanying refuse vehicle is full the leaves are delivered to city allotment holders, whose plots benefit from the rich compost.

Smoking trends have caused a new problem in city centres. Leicester’s Swingo drivers have found that no smoking policies in shops and offices have forced employees out on to the streets. “Smoking in the shop, offices of factory is not allowed, so the smokers have to go outside and, because generally there are no ashtrays outside, a small and spreading mound of cigarette stubs is found on the ground,” David Atkins said.

City hires out sweepers

Leicester City Council is believed to be the only UK local authority to operate a dedicated and separate compact sweeper vehicle for private hire.

Businesses and private organisations can hire the Swingo and its driver/operator from the Council to keep their premises clean or carry out clear-up operations at the site of events. In the eight years that the service has been operating David Atkins has seen a gradual increase in take-up. As well as major employers in the city, such as Walkers Crisps, the Trade Service Swingo also cleans up after home games by Leicester Tigers Rugby Union Club and the city’s Premier League football team. It is also operated at schools, garage forecourts and many other locations.

“I am very pleased with the way that the service has developed,” David Atkins says. “The original concept was to gain enough business so that the sweeper paid for itself and, perhaps, provided some extra investment into the department.

“In the main, industry has shown that it wants to help keep the city clean. But that has also been helped by the efforts of our own dedicated Trade Cleaning officer.”

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