City Centre councillors condemn Labour’s ‘cavalier’ attitude to dramatic rise in graffiti

Progressive Group councillors, representing St James and St David’s, have accused Labour of a cavalier attitude towards dramatic increases in levels of graffiti in Exeter in recent weeks. The criticism follows responses from Labour councillors to a question from Cllr Michael Mitchell, raised at the Council’s Scrutiny Committee. Cllr Mitchell asked when the full graffiti removal service would be reintroduced following its suspension, which the council blames on reduced income due to the corona virus pandemic. 

Cllr David Harvey, portfolio holder for City Management, said the full service would not be reintroduced until next April. Meanwhile, one Pinhoe Labour councillor suggested that Exeter might follow Bristol and organise graffiti tours and that groups should apply for money under the Covid action fund to ‘do some graffiti’ [1]. She also claimed it was an important way for disenfranchised groups to express themselves.

However, Cllr Kevin Mitchell, whose Duryard and St James ward has experienced a dramatic increase in graffiti and a corresponding surge in complaints from residents, says there is a growing backlog in dealing with the problem:

“Labour’s cavalier approach ignores the fact that city centre wards are bearing the brunt of this surge in graffiti. Defacing monuments and tagging walls is anti-social behaviour, plain and simple. Labour say they continue to remove offensive or racist graffiti – which of course must be the priority – but there is also a vast amount of nasty vandalism which is unpleasant for residents to have to witness on a daily basis. And the easier it is to get away with, the more the problem grows. There is now a growing backlog to deal with.”

Cllr Michael Mitchell, who asked about the service at the meeting, said:

“Clearly some Labour councillors are confusing graffiti with street art. There has been some brilliant street art brightening up subways and bare walls; but this has been organised and commissioned. The sort of graffiti that residents understandably object to is deliberate, uninvited defacing and damage being caused to our neighbourhoods. Indeed, often street art itself is defaced by unwanted tagging.”

Diana Moore, Green Party councillor for St David’s ward, which constantly grapples with the highest levels of graffiti in the city, added:

“If Labour is serious about tackling anti-social behaviour the Leader must allocate some of the budget delegated to him for urgent issues and prioritise a continued removal service across the city centre wards [2]. This is not an issue that can wait until next April, it is a false economy not to keep on top of this problem; it’s getting rapidly out of hand. I urge residents to keep using the Council’s website to report graffiti that concerns them.”


[1] Cllr Trish Oliver, Labour Councillor for Pinhoe, see video from 34:35

[2] Recommendation for minute 73 of the July 7th Executive and in particular recommendation 3: “approves a budget of up to £1 million delegated to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader and Chief Finance Officer. The budget to be used to fund urgent issues arising out of the response to Covid-19 and to offset the reductions in service budgets if required for urgent issues with the funds to be allocated from the income loss compensation announced by the Government.”


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