On Sunday evening, as the Shadow Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe & Smart City, I sent a number of questions relating to last weekend’s green clean up to both the Chief Executive and the Chief Legal Officer of Birmingham City Council. It will come as no surprise to any one who feels even the tiniest bit cynical, that despite continually being promised I would get a briefing note giving me the answers, it has not been sent to me until this morning – when the Polls have opened. (Well, there’s a surprise!)
This is a quick posting as I need to be out, getting out our vote, but just a few comments.
Basically, the reasons given for the timing of the clean up are that the waste was affecting the cleanliness and safety of a local area and/or the public health of residents. This will of course happen again in a few weeks, when the bags (which are already starting to pile up again in areas cleared last weekend) reach large numbers again.
Then what is to happen? Are the Council going to keep clearing the bags every few weeks? And if they do, what is the point of anyone bothering to pay for a wheelie bin? And how are the Council going to pay for continued clean ups given that this was not included in their budget proposals?
Conservatives wanted a clean up, and have been actively campaigning for one, BUT as our literature explained, it had to be accompanied by a decision to axe the tax and refund those who paid, or it is NOT a long term solution; indeed it simply makes the problem worse. Because it encourages people to continue fly tipping the stuff in front of their houses, safe in the knowledge that in the end the Council will cave in and collect it anyway.
The actual cost of the clean up was £24,000. Hot spots previously identified by the Waste Prevention Team were supposed to be given priority. My experience is that this did not always happen as (for example) a huge stickered pile in Odell Place, Edgbaston was completely ignored during last weekend’s clean up.
The briefing note states that those who paid for a wheelie bin and who are asking for their money back will NOT get a refund, because the special collection was not considered to be akin to the fortnightly collection people have paid for (not everyone who’s paid does get their bin emptied every fortnight, as my post bag shows – but that’s another story). However the Labour Councillors have now created a ridiculous situation where people will be able to see that they can either pay £35 and get a not very reliable fortnightly collection, or they can pay nothing in the knowledge that BCC now gives in when the piles are a certain size and takes them away for free anyway. What are most people going to do in that situation? What do you think? Do the people in charge never think about these pitfalls?
Frankly this whole policy has been ill thought out and completely mis-managed. Last weekend’s clean up hasn’t solved anything, long term it has just added to the problem. And the timing of it – the weekend immediately before the elections – in my opinion stinks more than the rubbish which was collected. Cllr McKay has presided over a shambles – and in my opinion he should resign.