- Council to insist that households must take at least three wheelie bins
- Local authority knew of changes to system months before local elections
- Many residents threatening to refuse to accept extra wheelie bins
- Council accused of lying to residents over ‘slightly smaller’ waste bins
- Changes come just as more waste will be sent for incineration
- Council has already withheld £1m in fees from failing contractor
Residents across Croydon have been united in their anger and frustration at the plans of the council, together with waste contractors Veolia, to QUADRUPLE the number of wheelie bins some households will be expected to accommodate.
The changes were announced on June 11 – fewer than 40 days after Tony Newman and his Labour group were re-elected to run the council for the next four years.
So residents’ anger risks turning into fury as they realise that the waste collection changes, outlined in leaflets being delivered to every home in Croydon this month, were originally meant to be imposed on them in April, but were postponed mainly so that Newman and his colleagues might avoid the political tsunami which might have hit them in the voting booths in May.
The changes, to be introduced in September, were never the subject of a public consultation. But Inside Croydon has learned of seething frustration among many Labour councillors, because even they were never told of the true extent of the changes as announced this month.
Similar widescale changes to the bin collection service were imposed on Sutton residents in April 2017.
The changes are all part of a contract with Veolia through the four-borough South London Waste Partnership, of which Croydon is a member. The changes wreaked havoc in Sutton, earning the trending hashtag #SuttonBinShame, and from which the borough’s residents have yet to see any genuine improvement in service.
At the local elections in May, Sutton’s ruling LibDems lost 12 council seats, the election set-backs thought to stem from the widespread deep dissatisfaction with #SuttonBinShame.
But now Newman’s Labour council could be facing #CroydonBinChaos.
Three-quarters of homes in the borough will get a new day of the week for rubbish and recycling collections from September.
“That just means that there will be another day of the week when the bin men fail to collect our rubbish,” one disgruntled resident told Inside Croydon, whose food waste has stood outside their home, festering in the summer heatwave, for three weeks.
The biggest change in the service provided will be the replacement of the current recycling boxes with wheelie bins. Residents will be expected to re-utilise their 240-litre wheelie bin, currently used for general waste, and instead use it for their recyclable glass, plastics and cans.
They will also receive a second 240-litre bin (with a blue lid) for paper and card recycling.
And all households will be given a new wheelie bin for general waste.
But instead of the current 240-litre capacity, this will be just 180-litre, or what Croydon Council’s propaganda leaflets claim is “slightly smaller”.
“That claim’s simply untrue,” one Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon.
“How can they even dare to say that in an official council leaflet?
“It’s just three-quarters the size of the current general waste bin. Remember, these wheelie bins were introduced at a time when Croydon Council was providing Council Tax-payers with a weekly rubbish collection service. Residents have had to endure a somewhat unreliable fortnightly collection for six years now, and our streets are regularly lined with unsightly bins that are over-flowing with household waste, waiting for Veolia’s collection day.
“Now they think residents will be able to manage with something which is much smaller. They are being unrealistic, and it will just make our streets smellier and more rubbish-strewn than they are already.”
Having not been consulted on the changes, senior figures within Newman’s Labour group have expressed deep concerns. One Town Hall Labour figure, of cabinet status, said of the scheme when it was announced, “What about families with small children? What are they going to do when their children’s nappies don’t fit into these much smaller bins?
“People will go bonkers if their landfill bin is replaced with a smaller one if they are large families.”
Those who pay for green waste collection will also have a fourth wheelie bin to somehow accommodate on their property.
Even with just one wheelie bin per household, many of the borough’s more densely populated streets, with HMOs – homes of multiple occupation, often Victorian era houses which have been converted into flats – already have their pavements lined with plastic walls of black wheelie bins, often not just on the day of the rubbish collection, but throughout the week.
The bins often block the pavements, causing obstructions for those pushing baby buggies or people in wheelchairs, and they present a real hazard for the visually impaired. “Soon, there will be nowhere left to walk on the pavement at all, all the space will be taken up by wheelie bins,” an unimpressed resident said.
In 2013, the government announced guidance for local authorities “to tackle unsightly bin clutter and ugly wheelie bins”, what they called “bin blight”, “the neighbourhood scourge of middle England”.
The guidance was largely concerned with the design of new homes, “proposals on both housing design standards and practice guidance on planning – which will require suitable provision to be made for proper waste storage in new homes.
“This will help avoid bins dominating residential streets or contributing to increased odour and roadside litter, and problems with rats, mice, flies and urban foxes.”
The then local government secretary, Eric Pickles, said at the time, “For years badly placed wheelie bins and the proliferation of multiple bins have created a blot on the landscape. In streets up and down the country, ugly bin clutter has ruined the street scene and the look of people’s homes and gardens.
“By ensuring that developers create appropriate waste storage areas when designing new homes, we can tackle the ghastly gauntlet of bin blighted streets and driveways.”
Five years on, and that sounds like a description of exactly what Tony Newman, and the council together with Veolia, is about to inflict on Croydon.
Our senior Labour source was also unconvinced about the council’s not-so-bright idea of leaving it to residents to return the now unnecessary recycling boxes. The council is asking residents to drive them to the local dump for responsible recycling. “That just ain’t going to happen, is it? There are queues outside the dumps most days already. Who is going to waste their time returning recycling boxes? Who came up with this idea?”
The changes are intended to drive up the borough’s recycling rate to 50 per cent.
Yet they are being introduced just at a time when Croydon, together with the three other councils in the South London Waste Partnership, are about to fire the ignition key on another “blot on the landscape”, the Beddington incinerator, where household rubbish is to be burned on an industrial scale.
The incinerator, operated by Viridor, another contractor making huge profits from public spending on waste, is unmentioned in Croydon Council’s green-tinged rubbish leaflet.
The incinerator will increase demand for burnable rubbish from Croydon, Sutton and the other SLWP boroughs, Kingston and Merton. Burning rubbish is also considerably cheaper than the process of recycling, making it commercially more attractive to the profit-hungry contractors at Veolia. And in the meantime China, for decades the principle recipient of much of Europe’s unprocessed plastic for “recycling”, has announced that they’ve had quite enough of our rubbish, thank you very much…
“Only the most uncynical person would accept that, just as our council is paying tens of millions of pounds a year to burn rubbish, there is even a chance that they will improve recycling rates,” another council source said.
“There’s a real risk that, having extra wheelie bins outside our homes will just make it easier for Veolia to whisk our rubbish off for incineration.”
Then there are the clear and present performance issues with Veolia.
As Inside Croydon reported last week, Stuart Collins, Newman’s deputy leader and the cabinet member responsible for the borough’s waste contracts, has seen £1million in fees withheld from the contractors for failing to deliver on the services as required.
It is suggested that Veolia are under-staffed for the bin collection and road cleaning services that they are supposed to be providing now; of course, it was Veolia who were at the centre of #SuttonBinShame, which began 15 months ago and some opposition councillors in Sutton maintain has yet to be resolved to a satisfactory service.
In some parts of Croydon, Veolia have not yet managed to recover from the disruption to their collections caused by the snows and the “Beast From The East” back in February. Some addresses in central Croydon report having had their bins and recycling collected on the correct days only twice in the 16 weeks since.
The last time Veolia altered their collection schedule, to what they claimed would be a more efficient “village” system, it was six months before some Croydon households started to received a reliable and regular collection service.
It hardly inspires confidence that Veolia will be able to deliver a smooth transition to a service which the majority of Croydon residents don’t actually want, come September.
But it is a case of like it or lump it: residents will be saddled with the extra wheelie bins, regardless of whether they can accommodate them.
The council’s leaflet makes that abundantly clear, claiming that Veolia has “surveyed” the borough “and believe that your property does have the space to store the two new wheelie bins”.
And can residents opt to continue using their current, substantially larger, wheelie bin for general waste? The council leaflet is categorical: “No,” it says.
Collins has said that, “The council will be as flexible as possible bearing in mind the logistical challenges.” When contractors such as Veolia become “logistically challenged”, it usually means that there is no flexibility for the customers – Croydon residents.
But Collins has also confirmed that Veolia – the company who he has recently docked £1million for sloppy work when someone from the council started to check their work – have conducted the “surveys” to determined which properties can accommodate the additional wheelie bins. “Obviously it is impossible to run a bespoke system for every household in the borough, so each street was assessed via Veolia, rather than individual properties,” Collins has admitted.
While the council claims that the use of the wheelie bins will “make our streets even cleaner…” by avoiding “…spillages and reduce litter by preventing recycling from blowing down the road on windy days” – otherwise known as Veolia failing to do their jobs properly – the real reason for the changes is that it will be £5million per year cheaper.
So yet again, not a better service, just a cheaper one.
It is worth considering that this £5million per year “saving” is just half the £10million that Croydon Council will be paying, every year until 2043, to Viridor for burning the borough’s rubbish in the incinerator.
But according to Croydon’s “cabinet member for Clean Green Croydon”, collecting household rubbish and recycling is no longer a frontline council service.
In a letter accompanying the leaflets, signed by Collins, he says that, “The new service will save £5million per year, money that will be used to protect vital frontline services that residents rely on.” By implication, Collins seems to suggest that collecting the bins is not a frontline service. In fairness, the time when residents could rely upon the service passed long ago.
The council is staging a series of “roadshows”, starting in New Addington next Thursday (July 5), which are likely to be lively affairs (possibly only rivalled by the Meet The Manager sessions recently staged by Southern Railway with commuters at London Bridge).
And the new bins will start to be wheeled out (geddit?) across the borough next week. “With over 200,000 bins to deliver across the borough, this is going to take some time,” the leaflet states.
It might take even longer if residents en masse decide to defy the council and refuse to accept the new bins.
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