Chamberlain Files Seem A Bit Confused

For someone who is supposed to be a political journalist, Paul Dale seems to be slightly confused about the timetable for the roll out of wheelie bins in Birmingham.

In his Old Joe’s Almanac piece (not nearly so good as last year’s Christmas offering by the way, which was in parts unintentionally hilarious) he states “the roll out of wheelie bins proceeded almost without a hitch”.

Perhaps someone will tell him that the roll out of wheelie bins in Birmingham doesn’t even start until March 2014, and won’t be completed until Dec 2015. All we have had so far, is a a roll out in two pilot wards – and if Mr Dale thinks that has gone without a hitch, then he really doesn’t know what’s going on in the city.

Mr Dale cannot understand why people don’t want to swop a dirty black bag for a shiny new wheelie bin.

Perhaps he CAN understand the basic fact that when you move from a system where people could leave out as much black bag rubbish and recycling as they liked and it would all be taken away, to one where the householder is limited in both the amount of black bag rubbish AND the amount of recycling they can leave out – then there are bound to be complaints. Because, no matter what container is being used,  it’s a worse service.

We were told from the beginning that extra cardboard neatly bundled could be left out beside the recycling bin. Soon, they added extra paper to this (after the outcry over the small size of the paper pod – more about this later). However my personal experience as a householder in Harborne is that when you do leave out the extra you are allowed to leave, the bin men often leave it.

On one occasion they left my cardboard (again) so I rang up to complain. I then noticed someone at the end of the road had also had their cardboard left, so I assumed when they came back for mine, they would take his too. Not so. Mine was taken – his was left AGAIN. Despite the fact the wagon had now driven past it twice.

At the Blue Coat School Christmas dinner, I sat next to someone who lived outside Birmingham and who (like Paul Dale) couldn’t understand why there was such a fuss about wheelie bins in Birmingham. I asked him a simple question. “Is your paper, cans, and bottles recycling all mixed in one container?” He answered that it was. But the point is, it is NOT in Birmingham. And therein lies another big problem.

Because our paper goes direct to the Kappa paper mill in Birmingham, ours cannot be mixed in with the other recycling. So a container has been designed with a separate paper pod in the top which is lifted out. Because paper is heavy, and the pod has to be lifted out, the pod cannot be too big. And for many people it is too small. For anyone who ordered the smaller size recycling container, the size of the paper pod was so tiny as to be a joke. So people can’t recycle as much paper as they used to. (And, as I pointed out earlier,  if they leave it out as extra, they cannot rely on it always being taken.) So if you’re a keen recycler, that’s disappointing.

When wheelie bins were introduced in the pilot wards, assisted collections (where the bin man collects the wheelie bin from the front door) were offered, to help those too old or infirm to wheel them themselves. These are unreliable too and are often left for weeks at a time (I know, I’ve had complaints about it).

One morning I watched from my front window as the rubbish wagon came down the street, and the bin men completely ignored the assisted collections in two of the three houses opposite me. A short while later, another Council worker in a van, drove down the road, and carried out the two assisted collections which the bin crew had left.

I don’t know why it was carried out in this way (was it deliberate, had the householders quickly phoned up to complain they’d been missed, or was the man in a van checking and found the crew wanting?). I’ve no idea. But I do know it doesn’t seem a very economical way to collect the rubbish.

I represent Edgbaston ward, although I live in Harborne. The north part of Harborne ward has a postal address of Edgbaston, and therefore I am sometimes contacted by people who think I am their Councillor, although I’m not. I recently had such a complaint in which the person said that they had originally welcomed the introduction of wheelie bins but now thought it was a complete waste of time.

Why? Their complaint was that their property (which is divided into flats) is legitimately allowed two rubbish wheelie bins, and two recycling wheelie bins. But almost every week, the bin men empty one rubbish wheelie bin and one recycling wheelie bin – and drive away leaving the other two full. Mr Dale may not understand why someone would not prefer a shiny wheelie bin to a black sack, but perhaps even he can see that most people prefer a system where the rubbish is regularly taken away, to one where half the rubbish is routinely left, no matter how shiny the receptacle.

If the wheelie bin roll out in Harborne has gone without a hitch, why were people still complaining about wheelie bins at the ward meetings held in Sept (3 months after the roll out) and November (5 months after the roll out)? And how do I know this (as I wasn’t there, and none of these people had contacted me in advance of the meetings)?

I know it because, in September, one complainant was so angry that Cllr McKay wasn’t there to hear her complaint, that she sent the photographs she had been intending to show him – to me (as his opposite number). Her complaint referred to the way the wheelie bins were left after collection (blocking the pavements and one in the middle of the road).

Other complaints I’ve received (and bear in mind, this isn’t even my ward) include wheelie bins left permanently on pavements, overflowing wheelie bins (also left permanently on pavements), and houses where the front garden is so small the only place to keep the wheelie bins is under the front living room bay window, but still they were forced to have them.

At the December Council meeting, I made a throw away comment that I knew some Councillors thought I was the only person in the world who was against wheelie bins. I had not got as far as the staircase on my way out of the chamber, when a Councillor (from another party) whispered to me, “You’re not the only one against wheelie bins. Lots of us feel the same. My residents are very concerned.”

Just wait till these concerned residents get the wheelie bins rolled out in their wards, Mr Dale. And then tell me if you think it’s gone without a hitch!

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