As I blogged previously, the number of people requesting an assisted collection (where the Council removes the rubbish from the front of the property rather than from the kerbside) has increased dramatically in the pilot wards where wheelie bins were introduced. It has gone up from 58 to 497 in Brandwood, and from 40 to 339 in Harborne.
At last month’s Council meeting, the leader of the Council tried to blame Harborne Conservatives for the rise, saying they had advertising the fact that assisted collections were available – but since the increase was higher in Brandwood, that excuse doesn’t hold water! I think the reason is far more likely to be that a wheelie bin is more difficult to manhandle than a black sack, and the fact that the assisted collection service was advertised more widely by everyone – including the Council.
Now all those who have requested to go on the assisted collection list in those two wards will be written to, asked if they still require a service, and if they do – asked to fill in a form. On the form they will need to explain why they need an assisted collection, how long they want it for (a set time or on going), and they will have to sign to say that they confirm there are no adults living in the property who are capable of moving a wheelie bin, and that they agree to be visited by the Council to “ensure that the Assisted Collection Service is suitable” for their needs. I presume this means for the Council to check whether they do actually need it.
Of course the Council should not be paying to give people a service they don’t really need. But I am concerned about vulnerable/infirm/elderly people who do need the service, but who might feel upset and concerned when they receive the letter and who may as a result feel obliged to opt out of a service which they really do need.
Writing such a letter to people is an unfortunate thing for the Council to have to do in my opinion. When the wheelie bins are rolled out to other wards, including the ward of Edgbaston which I represent, I wonder if the Council will follow the same course of first offering residents a service and then later try to reduce the numbers taking it up, or will they be far more draconian in deciding who can have an assisted collection in the first place? Neither scenario is satisfactory and it will be a difficult decision to make.