WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on the latest twist in #CroydonBinChaos
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others
Just as “Binmageddon” made it into the headlines of BBC London’s radio coverage this morning (including a particularly impressive interview given by Inside Croydon’s loyal reader Arno Rabinowitz), the council’s conduct has gone fully Orwellian.
The mass roll-out of 200,000 wheelie bins across the borough is being rolled back – but only for some residents in select areas.
Similar appeals for the council to reconsider the new three-wheelie-bins-for-all-households blanket policy from a councillor in another blighted ward nearby, apparently with houses with similar lack of space, meanwhile, have been ignored.
“They are just not listening to the residents at all,” one Inside Croydon reader who has had the three bins imposed on the small area outside their terraced home told BBC London this morning.
“They just don’t want to know.”
Stuart Collins, the Labour-run council’s cabinet member for a clean and green Croydon, broke into his holiday this morning to be interviewed by BBC London’s Vanessa Feltz, where he tried to defend the policy and managed to reveal the real reason behind the change in the system.
“You can’t operate a bespoke system,” Collins said, explaining that the new one-size-fits-all bins, tripling the number of wheelies outside most households, meant that Veolia would no longer have “to use a different type of vehicle”, for landfill and recycling collections, with the additional costs that that involves.
But as one resident told the programme: “This has nothing to do with improving the quality of life for residents, and it is all about making it easier, and cheaper, for Veolia to do their job.”
Collins told the programme that while the bin system is affecting 130,000 properties around Croydon, council staff had visited only 800 households to re-assess whether they were suited for accommodating the invasion of black bins.
Collins appeared to suggest that the small number of people who the council had bothered to visit somehow demonstrated a low-level of complaint.
Presumably, those 800 householders are the ones fortunate enough to get through on the special Binmageddon hotline which Collins had to order to be introduced. Residents have contacted Inside Croydon to relate how they have had the phone put down on them after they have managed to get through, or they have found the line to be constantly engaged.
Others have written of how multiple emails to the council to complain about the new bins have gone unacknowledged and unanswered.
“Why did they not survey the streets first?” Vidhi Mohan, the Conservative councillor for Park Hill and the Whitgift Estate ward, told the radio programme.
“It’s a waste of resources, delivering the bins and then in some cases taking them back again. That money could have been better spent targeting those households who do not recycle enough.”
Mohan has taken up the case of some streets in his ward, but has so far been unsuccessful in getting Veolia to take back their eyesores, which sit on pavements outside homes without adequate space to store them.
Inside Croydon has learned that the so-called “borough-wide survey” which the council claimed had been carried out to assess the suitability of properties to accommodate the three-bin system was, in fact, nothing of the sort. The “survey” was initially conducted by Veolia, who as the contractors will have had a vested interest in identifying as many households as possible to take their new bins.
And it emerges that Veolia conducted the survey as a “desktop exercise”, with staff not going out in to the streets but simply using Google Maps on their office computers to guesstimate which streets would accommodate the bins.
Meanwhile, the “21 days or more” period has begun when Veolia won’t be carrying out any rubbish collections for 1 in 5 of households around the borough. Several residents have related that the promised “special collection” over the bank holiday weekend never happened.
Veolia’s rubbish service has left the residents lumbered with a pile of recycling, a full landfill bin and festering food waste boxes on their doorsteps, to remain there possibly – according to the contractors – until the middle of September.
But for those living in some streets in Addiscombe West ward, intervention by their councillors with Collins has seem him issue a waiver and get the unwanted bins removed.
Earlier this month, Jerry Fitzpatrick, Sean Fitzsimons and Patricia Hay-Justice announced that they had met with their Labour colleague, Collins, and senior council officers Steve Iles (the “director of streets”) and Tom Lawrence (the head of environment and leisure), the staff who are behind the implementation of the policy.
“Council officers have undertaken in recent weeks a review of the new arrangements,” the councillors wrote.
“They concluded that most terraced houses can accommodate the new bins, on the basis that they have a frontage which is three and a half times the length of the bins, and one and a half times the width.
“Therefore, Addiscombe Court Road has been exempted from the new arrangement on the grounds that a significant minority of properties cannot accommodate the bins. They will continue with the current collection arrangement.
“Oval Road (aside from a small proportion of properties) has been exempted from the new arrangement because the majority of properties have steps leading up or down to their front door, and are clearly unable to accommodate the new arrangements. Therefore, Oval Road will also continue with the current collection arrangement.
“The new bins which have been delivered will be collected within a week.”
And they added: “Turnpike Link, Garrick Crescent and Granville Close will continue to use the unwheeled bin for which they have a built-in dustbin cupboard. Two wheeled bins will be provided in addition.
“Other properties (not all of which have yet been individually identified) which do not meet the space criterion to enable them to accommodate the new bins can seek review. Where it is agreed that a property does not have the space, the bins will be removed and the current arrangements reinstated.
“Residents who have a front garden populated with flowers, shrubs and bushes are also likely to have a good case to be exempt from the new arrangements.
“Councillors were also promised that the issue of bin size will be kept under review. Again, we are committed to ensuring that this remains high on the council agenda.”
This represents the largest, widescale roll-back of the bin roll-out around the borough. It will have been conducted at considerable extra expense.
The council has also done a U-turn on its originally announced intention to not collect (and recycle) the old system’s plastic recycling boxes. “Residents will receive a letter through their door about how to contact the council to get their boxes removed,” the Addiscombe West councillors said.
Elsewhere, though, hundreds of householders are effectively being forced into risking being fined by the council because they have nowhere to store the new bins. The bins now line the pavement, creating an unsightly obstacle for parents with pushchairs, those in wheelchairs or with mobility issues, or the partially sighted.
Meanwhile, the council’s website still contains this warning: “You should move your bin to the edge of your property for collection the night before the bins are due to be emptied. Please don’t leave it on the pavement or in the road.”
Outside Addiscombe West, many residents are angry at their treatment over the bins.
As one Inside Croydon reader said this week, “I rent a one-bedroom house. I now have a total of eight bins. They could have saved some money and plastic had they checked the size of the properties before they made so many bins.”
Another resident said, “Productive hour removing all the pot plants from my front garden to make space for the black plastic army that the council has bin-flicted on us. There’s no room for garden greenery or flowering plants down south Croydon residential streets with these huge eyesores everywhere.”
Other residents who had successfully argued against having multiple wheelies in their terraced street in SE25 now find themselves left with nothing in which to store their recycling. “Well, not long to D-Day with your new waste plan and I can report that the two new bins have been removed from the pavement outside our property but no bags… for our recycled waste have yet been supplied.
“Please note that there are two flats in the building that require your bags. Both flats pay Council Tax. Two properties that currently recycle paper/plastic/glass/food and of course share a large bin for our landfill.” The resident states that multiple emailed appeals to the council’s “dedicated” bin account, all copied to Collins, have meanwhile gone unanswered.
“Where are we to position our ‘bags’ (if and when we receive them) in order that they will be collected by your contractors and not torn apart by foxes?” they ask, not unreasonably. Answer, there has come none.
Collins, meanwhile, promised cleaner streets and a £5million saving for the council, as he told the BBC that the policy is all about recycling and invoked St David of Attenborough and The Blue Planet.
“We’ve got to do our bit to save the planet,” said the man who in the next few weeks will see Croydon sending ever more of the borough’s waste – probably including large volumes of unrecycled plastics – to an industrial-scale incinerator which will be pumping out particulate-laden fumes over south London for the next 25 years.
How will that help the ice caps, Stu?
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