IN this month's column Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris discusses the importance of residents getting involved in their own community.

ONE of the great assets of our local area is the strength of community groups, voluntary organisations, faith-based bodies and residents’ groups – what academics call “civil society”.

Long before the phrase “Big Society” entered the political dictionary, groups in Halesowen & Rowley Regis were already demonstrating it in practice, working to make our communities stronger and our area a better place to live.

For a lot of people, few things are more depressing than seeing litter discarded by the side of the street or in our parks and play areas.

In the grand scheme of things it might be a relatively minor issue compared to other problems we face, but the number of letters and emails I receive – and the responses that I get when I am out listening to local residents’ views – show how much rubbish upsets people.

I believe that litter lying around also has an effect on how people behave.

In the same way that graffiti and broken windows send out a signal that petty crime is tolerated and so tend to lead to more serious crimes being committed in an area, large amounts of litter damages the pride that people have in their area and the respect that they have for others.

It is tempting to blame the local council for litter problems – and it is particularly tempting when the local council is run by your political opponents – but the truth is that the Council doesn’t drop the litter, and faces an impossible task in trying to pick up rubbish as quickly as an inconsiderate minority of people discard it.

Heavier penalties for people caught dropping litter – and initiatives like Sandwell’s campaign to get owners to clean up after their dogs – are important, but we all have a responsibility to keep our local environment clean.

If litter in our community is depressing then few things are more uplifting than seeing people taking practical action to tackle the problem.

There are litter picks most weekends, held by local residents, churches and mosques, community groups, schools, councillors and even political parties to tidy up the area.

Over the past five years, I have organised a number of clean-ups and have turned out to support many more.

Last month, I joined volunteers from the River Stour Clear Water Project to clean rubbish from the river at the back of Haden Hill and Furnace Hill near the border between Cradley Heath and Halesowen.

This Saturday, I shall be helping out at the litter pick being organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association in Halesowen. We are meeting at Hope Street Park at 1pm and so please do come and help.

If you would like help organising a community litter pick in your area, call me on 0121 550 6777 or email