BINMAGEDDON!: Merging of borough services causing chaos

Our Sutton correspondent, BELLE MONT, has obtained a confidential council document which confirms that much of the #CroydonBinChaos over the past two months was all done in an effort by Veolia to avoid a repeat of… #SuttonBinShame

Inside Croydon has obtained a confidential council document which confirms that the past eight weeks of #CroydonBinChaos – the changed collection days, missed collections, and added maggots, flies and vermin across Croydon’s dirty streets – has all been done as the service from rubbish contractors Veolia is merged across borough boundaries to cut costs.

Half of Sutton’s Monday bin rounds are now shared with Croydon routes

Since the implementation at the start of September of the change to collection schedules in Croydon, thousands of households have endured missed bin collections, some going without having their bins emptied for six weeks.

The spin coming from Croydon Town Hall has shifted in the past fortnight, away from the cost savings – supposed to be £5million per year (though this year that is reduced to £2.7million because the council has splashed the cash on buying unwanted and often unnecessary new wheelie bins).

More recently, the council has gone the Full Attenborough, now emphasising that this service disruption will save the planet by improving recycling rates.

The reality is that the new service is simply cheaper, costing less for Veolia to provide  their service, reflected in the lower charges made to Croydon and the three other councils in the South London Waste Partnership – Merton, Kingston and Sutton.

The economies of scale of rolling out a refuse collection service across four boroughs have given Veolia greater opportunity to cut corners, as the Sutton Council report makes very clear.

According to the official report – which outlines a delegated decision, taken by a council official and never discussed by elected councillors in public – half of Sutton’s bin collections on Mondays are now done by Veolia rounds that are shared with Croydon.

The confidential Sutton Council document. Shared bin collection routes with Croydon may create ‘challenges’

The report flags up that the disruption is liable to continue well into October, as Merton’s bin service undergoes a similar overhaul this month.

The report observes, “Implementing changes to waste collections can lead to missed collections, increased resident dissatisfaction and increased contact with customer services and councillors.” No shit, Sherlock.

Barely 18 months on from the first round of changes were imposed, badly, in Sutton, the council has authorised another service shift, affecting more than 12,000 properties in the borough.

“At the same time as the Sutton day changes are taking place, Croydon and Merton councils will also be mobilising new contract arrangements under the SLWP contract. This also adds risk to the Sutton element of the SLWP contract,” the report states.

Under the heading “Risks and Mitigations”, the Sutton Council report (which was signed off on August 20), says: “Due to the proposed changes taking place at the same time as the mobilisation of Croydon (September) and Merton (October), any challenges with implementation will put Veolia under increased pressure, which could limit the amount of resource available to Sutton.”

For “challenges”, read problems.

“Through working with the South London Waste Partnership and attendance at the mobilisation board, officers will seek to mitigate this risk. The number of properties affected by each change have been finalised. However officers will continue to work closely with Veolia to ensure due diligence is being undertaken on the data at both project and operational levels and any changes such as new builds within the area of change becoming occupied, are taken into account.

“With the transfer of some rounds to Croydon crews, there is the risk of the loss of local knowledge from current Sutton crews, which could adversely impact upon collections where layout or collection points are non standard. Work is therefore being undertaken through crew shadowing and supervision to mitigate this.”

This lack of local know-how has been a feature of some anecdotal reports from residents in Croydon, of Veolia crew unfamiliar with their rounds, and poorly briefed on the characteristics and demands of routes.

#SuttonBinShame is now notorious across the capital, and being repeated as #CroydonBinChaos

The Sutton report continues: “Due to the planned changes, there is a risk of an increase in missed collections when the new service goes live. To mitigate this, three lines of communication material is being distributed to affected residents. As some residents may be away on holiday, officers will review and a fourth line put in place if necessary.

“The number of days between collections will be longer than 16 or 21 days in some cases. This would leave residents with high volumes of waste uncollected over the period. This will be mitigated by additional collections taking place where there is a wait longer than 14 days, with the cost being borne by Veolia.”

Which all amounts to the changes, the extra bins, the plastic walls of wheelies which now line suburban streets in Croydon, the missed collections and rubbish-strewn streets – basically, #CroydonBinChaos – have all been imposed on residents just to make it easier, and cheaper, for Veolia to do the job.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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3 Responses to BINMAGEDDON!: Merging of borough services causing chaos

  1. Marzia Nicodemi-Ehikioya says:

    I put out our paper recycling bin after 6 weeks (3 collections) and it was half full as the bin is too big. I doubt any average family will ever fill it twice a month. It is, therefore, TOO BIG.

    Next week we will put out the plastic/glass recycling bin after 6 weeks (3 collections). It will probably be almost full. The bin is, therefore, a good size for a monthly collection but TOO BIG for a fortnightly collection.

    I put out the Landfill bin fortnightly as I do not like bad smells. I have to wheel it through the side gate as the bin cupboard is not big enough for 3 wheelies.

    If we could have 3 small wheelies, the above exercise would not be necessary. Imagine winter, rain or snow!

    We pay a lot of money in Council Tax. We are happy to help the vulnerable and needy but we are not happy when no choice is offered.

    • Bernard Winchester says:

      I imagine that they are too big (and ugly) for 90% of households. My guess is that to save money the longer term objective is to reduce the number of collections, as is being tried elsewhere (there was a programme on Radio 4 about they are now monthly in Conway). Once we have accepted these huge bins, the logic for saving large sums by collecting recyclables at longer intervals becomes hard to refute.

  2. Nigestair says:

    This morning I have contacted the council and my two ward councillors about the new system (I cannot believe my life has descended to complaining about bin collections, but there you go. Rock ‘n’ roll!). Our property is considerably lower than the road and pavement, which are accessed via steps. Apparently the council’s expectation is that we will put our new wheelie bins on the (narrow) pavement up the top (although their website also states that you shouldn’t report a missed collection unless you ‘presented them [the bins] just inside of your property boundary (please do not leave it on the pavement)’), which would require lugging them up loads of steps. Very little forethought has gone into this, and no consultation. Grrrr!!!!!

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