Romford traders and shoppers call for street sweeper Jeff Rawlings to be given job back by Havering Council

Street cleaner Jeff Rawlings at the town hall

Street cleaner Jeff Rawlings at the town hall - Credit: Archant

Scores of shoppers and traders have called for a much-loved street cleaner dubbed the “pride of Romford” to be given his job back.

Jeff with some of his supporters and their petition

Jeff with some of his supporters and their petition - Credit: Archant

For heartbroken Jeff Rawlings, it’s more than a job. “It feels like the end of a marriage,” he told the Recorder.

As part of a savings drive, Jeff’s job has been axed – and the shortfall will be made up by a mechanical sweeper.

The 43-year-old, who had worked in the town centre and Romford market for 12 years, has been given the brush-off and sent to Hornchurch on a lower salary – away from his community and friends.

However, a 165-signature petition, gathered over just two days, calls on council chiefs to reconsider their plan.

“I can’t believe what’s happened to me,” said Jeff. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m so upset – I don’t want to go. That job is my whole life. I live on my own. I don’t socialise at home and I don’t go out that much.

“People know me in Romford – they like to talk to me. There are a lot of lonely people out there on the street and I feel I’m some kind of help.”

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Jeff was re-interviewed for his job earlier this year as part of a council savings drive. It was decided to move him to a lower-paid position.

He believes this wasn’t a fair way to decide his fate.

“The job is hands-on,” he explained. “I sweep up. Key words don’t come into it.”

The rapport Jeff’s built up in the market is evident from the signatures and comments gathered by trader Barrie Canham.

The petition’s cover letter reads: “Not only has he done his job in a very professional manner, but he has also been a social role model, promoting the friendly atmosphere that Romford should be giving to its citizens. He knows every shopkeeper and market trader. Why is he being moved away from people who adore him? He loves the job and we love him.”

Comments in the petition include: “Good worker and good friend.” “Backbone of South Street and Romford.” “Best council worker I know.”

“This gentleman is excellent, always busy at the job. Pleasant and polite.” “Brilliant, cheerful chap – please let him stay!” “Please do not move him. He is the pride of Romford.”

StreetCare boss Cllr Barry Tebbutt said Jeff had been “judged on his merits for the post”. He added: “We’re going through a number of restructures across the council to make about £40million of savings.

“We understand nobody wants to go through this, but we have to change the way we work to keep delivering frontline services.”

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