Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Bin Collections in Reading: One Size Does Not Fit All

Next week at Cabinet we will be considering a report on plans to re-introduce weekly black bin collections in some narrow terraced streets in central Reading to help residents who have faced disruptions to their bin collection service to get a better service from their Council in the future.

This is something we pledged to do in our published local Coalition Agreement with the Conservatives.

The list of streets where additional collections are to be considered identified by officers working in Streetcare and to be discussed next week can be viewed here

As the press release issued by Reading Borough Council explains:
"The Council's Streetcare Team have identified a total of 47 streets – more than 1,800 properties – which could benefit from a weekly collection of their household waste.
Under the plans residents in these areas would put out their household rubbish in black sacks, rather than bins, and have them collected weekly, rather than fortnightly as is currently the case. Recycling collections would however remain fortnightly in these areas.
The streets were selected according to strict criteria, which are:
  • Where pavements are narrow – 1.2 metres or less – and where bins regularly block pedestrians, prams or wheelchair users passing safely, and where storage for black bins in front gardens is limited and binmen can't easily get to the bins;
  •  Where crews are experiencing operational difficulties in collecting bins because of parked cars blocking access to rubbish trucks, streets having limited storage space and other access problems.
If adopted at a Cabinet meeting on April 11, the next stage is for Reading Borough Council to consult with these residents to see if they are happy with the proposed changes and the switch to weekly collections."
That last bit is very important: the Council will consult with residents before making any changes.

This is precisely the opposite of the approach taken by Labour councillors when they implemented alternate weekly bin collections in Reading in October 2006.

I remember - I was there, having recently been elected on to the Council.  And I remember the chaos the introduction of alternate weekly collections caused for residents in the University area in my ward who didn't have space for two bins.

The problem was compounded when  rubbish built up at the end of University terms - something I successfully campaigned to sort out working with the University and Streetcare teams.

I made the point at that time that one size does not fit all in Reading when it came to bin collections and that still stands.

But deaf to any criticisms of their scheme Labour councillors attacked any opposition councillors who dared raise any objections to their scheme.

It's also worth noting that Labour introduced alternate weekly bin collections across Reading just weeks after the local elections - denying residents a chance to have their say on the plans via the ballot box.

And as the Cabinet minutes of the June 2006 meeting confirm Labour councillors did not consult residents before introducing the scheme:
"That the changes required to implement an alternate weekly collection of residual and recycling waste and the introduction of a green waste collection from 2 October 2006, as outlined in paragraph 5.1 of the report be approved;


That the Environment Scrutiny Panel be asked to monitor the scheme’s implementation and any specific problems that the changes to the collections may cause, and report back to Cabinet as appropriate."
Monitor the implementation of a scheme is rather different to asking residents if they want it or not, don't you think?

After the scheme was implemented without consultation I submitted email after email to the one off scrutiny review from residents disgusted with the way that Labour had blanket introduced the scheme and detailing problems it was causing local residents particularly in narrow streets.

Needless to say it took years for changes to be made to make Labour's flawed scheme work for residents in many parts of central Reading:-
  • One year after the scheme was introduced officers identified a number of problems with Labour's scheme in terraced areas and areas with high numbers of flats. Lines of red wheelie bins on London Road drew complaints from residents so as a result we successfully got the Council to swap unsighly bins for single bins on so-called "gateway" streets
  • Ward councillors in Redlands and Katesgrove reported large numbers of missed bin collections mainly in narrow terraced streets which occured after the scheme was introduced.
  • In 2008 the cross-cutting scrutiny review Cllr Ricky Duveen and I led into the tackling issues in the private rented sector identified the need to make improvements to waste collection in areas with high numbers of rented properties including flats and Houses of Multiple Occupation.
  • That same year, in response to our scrutiny review and one month before the local elections the Labour-run Council belatedly responded to problems by reintroducing weekly bin collection services in Oxford Road, London Road, Basingstoke Road and Southampton Street" to help address similar issues in these areas such as garden litter, bins on streets and overflowing bins."
Introducing weekly collections in priority areas is about ensuring all our residents receive a good waste collection service regardless of what type of property they live in.

We are absolutely clear that we will consult with and listen to what residents in affected areas tell us before taking a decision.

And we will continue to take no lessons whatsoever from Labour councillors when it comes to managing bin collections in the town. After all, their record on waste management is not a good one.

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