#BINMAGEDDON! Boroughs left looking like rubbish tips

‘They treat us like the rubbish they are supposed to collect!’

Infestations: after weeks of food waste not being collected, Croydon residents have been dealing with maggots and other vermin on their doorsteps

Mounting reports from around the boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership suggest that the councils’ waste service contractors are creaking under pressure. By STEVEN DOWNES

The complaints about the rubbish service provided by council contractors Veolia are mounting up as high as the piles of waste being left around the borough.

And it is not only in Croydon that the poor levels of service are being noted.

Residents in other boroughs in the SLWP – the South London Waste Partnership – including Sutton and Merton, also locked into long-term deals multi-million-pound deals with Veolia, have been recording repeat failings that have left their streets strewn with rubbish and suffering infestations of rats and maggots.

From missed bin collections, to paid-for green waste collections that never happen, through to heaps of fly-tips that are being left to fester for weeks on end, residents are becoming increasingly angry over the lack of service that they are receiving in return for their Council Tax.

Piled high: the recycling outside this block of flats in Shirley has not been collected for six weeks

The state of Croydon’s parks and green spaces – subject to a different contract – have become an increasing concern, with volunteer work teams of Council Tax-paying residents spending their weekends picking up the litter being left by others, in the apparent absence of any council contractors to perform the routine service.

When much of the nation was entering into lockdowns during 2020, the bin men and their lorries continued to do their rounds of the borough’s streets, despite the impact of covid-19 on the workforce. But going into 2021, there has been a notable decline in the services provided, with Veolia recently blaming the shortage of HGV drivers for their troubles.

Complain to the council? Phone lines in Fisher’s Folly are rarely answered, and the council has long ago tried to steer residents to logging missed bin collections online, or by using Croydon’s notoriously CrapApp. To this day, the CrapApp has no category for reporting missed bin collections (it helps keep down the tally of missed collections, thus avoiding any tense meetings with Veolia over their poor service).

Inside Croydon has also learned that for at least a month over the summer, no incoming reports of fly-tips or missed bin collections were being logged or passed on to Veolia because the council’s rubbish in-box was not being checked. This, apparently, was due to staff shortages following the wide-ranging council redundancies carried out as a result of the borough going bust.

Even raising the matter with ward councillors has become futile. Councillors – Labour as well as Conservative – grumble quietly off-the-record that their calls to council officials are rarely answered.

Missed: elected councillors have been reporting wide-ranging missed bin collections on Twitter – while the council website has inaccurate information

The pressures on the poorly monitored system have led to further reports of residents’ carefully sorted recycling being sent straight to the Beddington incinerator, while in the warm summer weather, missed food waste collections have seen infestations of maggots and vermin appear on the doorsteps of Croydon residents.

One reader, who lives in Shirley, told Inside Croydon of their frustrating attempts to deal with Veolia: “This company has a total disregard for its customers. The management are uncontactable… I received an email from them today saying the bins were not emptied as the recycling was mixed. The damned bins are for ‘mixed recycling’.

“I was beginning to think that perhaps it was just me who thinks this company… was the most incompetent company I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. However, today I checked on Trustpilot and it seems all over the UK, this company treats its customers with shameful service.

“I live in a block of 12 flats over commercial premises in Shirley. For the last six weeks I have been trying without success to get our recycling bins emptied.

“In the first half of 2020, general and recycling collections were sporadic and combined with an inadequate number of bins, this caused a significant rat problem at the property. Croydon Council ended up footing the bill for a pest control contract to deal with the issue.

Mounting problems: residents across the borough have encountered similar issues over missed collections

“We were finally given four extra general bins and the recycling bins were changed to four ‘mixed’ ones.

“Once we received the extra bins, collections returned to a more regular collection with only the occasional failure to empty.

“But this year, collections in respect of the recycling have become infrequent, leading to the current situation where they have not been emptied for six weeks.

“If we go online to report the missed collection, the report states Veolia were unable to empty because the recycling is ‘mixed’. That’s in the ‘mixed recycling’ bins that Veolia provided to us.

“It’s that or ‘bins not presented’, even though the bins have been in same area outside the flats for years.

“I have made numerous calls to Croydon Council, I have raised missed online reports, a formal complaint (still no reply) and emailed all three local councillors, none of whom have had the courtesy to reply, even by just acknowledging the email.

“I did manage to speak to someone at the council who confirmed that various emails had been sent to Veolia requesting this issue be sorted, but they are not followed through to resolution. The staff at the council seem unable to speak directly to anyone at Veolia by phone, everything has to be done by email.

Rubbish service: this massive fly-tip on both sides of Willow Lane on Mitcham Common was reported in August, but there has been no action from Veolia, Merton Council nor the Common Conservators

“I tried phoning Veolia myself and was told as a ‘resident’ they would not talk to me and I would need to phone Croydon Council.

“On this basis, these incompetent Veolia persons can just ignore the issue and our bins will never get emptied. It appears that Veolia have a contract where they self-govern with no consideration for local residents.

“They treat us like the rubbish they are supposed to collect!

“As in most other responsible boroughs, Croydon residents are actively encouraged to recycle, but what is the point for us to do this if the bins are not emptied and they cause the issues we have suffered?

Sutton poo: similar reports of no bin collections for weeks are being made across the SLWP area

“Last week, the agent who manages the flats for the landlord phoned the council. They agreed to get the bins cleared urgently and that a ‘waste services complaints manager’ would be in touch in due course about how the recycling would be dealt with in the future.

“A week later, and nothing has happened. This was deemed to be ‘urgent’.

“The excess bags of rubbish continue to accumulate. Some get ripped open by foxes, with the contents spilling onto the bin lids, which are now covered in loads of maggots.”

That is in Shirley.

In Addiscombe, too, Council Tax-payers are also questioning what they pay their Council Tax for.

As one resident wrote to Inside Croydon, “Bins are not being collected recently in the Addiscombe area, causing environmental problems for us.

“The pavements on Davidson Road is filled with garbage not being collected.
It’s a very unpleasant situation and a risk to the citizens of this community.”

Similar reports have been received from concerned residents and residents’ associations across Sutton and Merton, too. A fly-tip on Mitcham Common, first reported in August, has only grown in size in the subsequent four weeks or so, as others have added their trash to the festering pile, with no sign of a Veolia clean-up team.

No way out: the piled high recycling outside this building in Sutton makes access difficult for a wheelchair user

The Shirley resident’s experience is increasingly common. In Sutton, another resident reports that uncollected recycling, piling high by a door to their flats, has now become an access hazard for their wheelchair-bound neighbour.

“I have reported this to the council using the online portal and have contacted my ward councillors directly (only one of whom even acknowledged my email) but still nothing has been done.

“One wonders what my Council Tax is being used for.

“This is now an environmental health hazard and is attracting pests. My neighbour relies on a wheelchair to get about and is worried that having to wheel over the mess will puncture her tyres and leave her housebound.”

This is not a new experience: it all happened when Veolia took over the contract in Sutton and first inflicted Binmageddon on that borough.

But as the multiple missed collections mount up across this part of south London, with vermin and health hazards arising, questions arise as to when elected representatives – often ignored by the councils’ professional staff – will decide that Veolia’s service is not fit for purpose? Or why it is that senior council directors seem so ready to give Veolia an easy ride over their poor performance?

Read more: Questions raised over new £21m rubbish deal with Veolia
Read more: Veolia worker dies in the heat during Thornton Heath bin round

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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Addiscombe East, Addiscombe West, Business, Croydon Council, Croydon parks, Environment, Fly tipping, Merton, Refuse collection, Shirley North, Steve Iles, Sutton Council, Veolia, Waste incinerator and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to #BINMAGEDDON! Boroughs left looking like rubbish tips

  1. CentralCroydon says:

    Remind me, who is the director in charge of this service in Croydon? I am sure they are suitably qualified to get a job emptying the bins, but not sure they suitably qualified to hold their current role.

    • Give it a rest about your least favourite Director.

      It’s not just a Croydon problem. It affects all the boroughs in the South London Waste Partnershit (sic) with two huge corporations. One is Veolia, a French company that has operations around the world, including backward nations like this one. The other is with Viridor, now owned by American conglomerate KKR whose co-chair gave $1million to Trump’s inauguration party.

      The docile naive councillors who are meant to keep that shower in check appear out of their depth at best, complicit at worst. Judging from their Joint Waste Committee reports, instead of holding the service providers to account, they nod through the excuses and propaganda served up to them.

      The way to get these companies to perform is for all four councils to start working on plans to bring services back in house, to be run directly by us for us, not for some overseas owned outfits that only care about money.

      • But only that least favourite director managed to award a £21m uplift to Veolia’s contract while the council around him was in financial meltdown.
        How did he manage to do that??

        • According to, er, Inside Croydon, in December 2016 Stuart Collins and other South London Waste Partnershit members agreed an 8-year deal with Veolia.

          The £21m uplift agreed in March 2021 was under his watch as Cabinet member and Deputy Leader for, ahem, clean streets.

          If councillors don’t know what they’re approving and seemingly let officers bamboozle and boss them around, they shouldn’t be elected.

          • Arfur, you make our case for us: Croydon is an officer-led local authority. The officials tell the councillors what they are going to do, and councillors rarely if ever have real influence over those decisions.

          • Do Croydon council officers really tell Croydon councillors what to do? That’s akin to the old Nuremberg defence: “we were only following orders”. It’s also highly suspect.

            No party has gone into council elections with a manifesto saying “we’ll do whatever the officers say we must”.

            Once elected, training is readily available to help councillors do a good job in whatever position they hold. That way they can understand what decisions they need to make and ask the right questions to ensure that officers are doing a good job.

            But under Newman, it wasn’t necessary to be trained. Labour councillors did as they were whipped to do. Anyone who thought for themselves was given the boot.

            Who forced Simon Hall to set up Brick by Brick and allow it to wreck our borough’s finances?

            Who told Alison Butler to hand the Fairfield Halls renovation project to Brick by Brick?

            Who ordered Paul Scott to wave through all those planning applications to build on green spaces?

            Who made Tony Newman run the council like a dictatorship?

            Not the naughty officers – they did it all themselves, m’lud.

          • Of course Croydon is officer-led, Arfur. Think Rouse. Think, especially, Elvery. In April 2014, Newman was telling colleagues that the corrupt interim CEO would go after the elections. In July 2014, Newman confirmed Elvery’s appointment for the sake of “continuity”.

            All those promises of accountability over the CCURV, which handed Laings £150million for a south London office block, or paid vastly over the odds for the Waddon Leisure Centre? Buried and forgotten, by the officers who wanted “continuity”.

            Think Negrini: how else could someone get away with putting her colleague in charge of a building company? Think of how she walked away from the car wreck she had created with £440,000 and zero accountability?

            Croydon’s councillors exhibit a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

            Speak to councillors, backbenchers especially, about the way they are treated with utter contempt by directors and execs at the council.

            You wrote:
            Once elected, training is readily available to help councillors do a good job in whatever position they hold. That way they can understand what decisions they need to make and ask the right questions to ensure that officers are doing a good job.

            But who vets the questions that are asked? Who decides which questions are ever asked? Did you not read any of the reports into the council’s financial collapse last year?

            You wrote:
            Who forced Simon Hall to set up Brick by Brick and allow it to wreck our borough’s finances?

            Whose idea was it? Negrini’s. It’s what she had worked on previously in Newham.

            You asked:
            Who told Alison Butler to hand the Fairfield Halls renovation project to Brick by Brick?

            Negrini, with back-up from Lacey. The Fairfield Halls was a Labour white elephant, a symbol of pride for the borough and a sign that they could do things better. Negrini offered them a solution, like the witch offering Snow White an apple, poisoned…

            You asked:
            Who ordered Paul Scott to wave through all those planning applications to build on green spaces?

            For six years, Scott – a director at a London firm of architects and long-term chair of planning – never had to declare a single interest. Odd that. Where was the Borough Solicitor when that dispensation was granted? Where was the monitoring officer. With Scott in place, anything could be pushed through on planning.

            You asked:
            Who made Tony Newman run the council like a dictatorship?

            Newman is sufficiently thick that senior officials – Elvery and Negrini – played him. They used his bullying and short-fuse to continue to run the council how they saw fit. He would truck no criticism of council officers… because if he ever allowed that, those same officers would pull the rug from under his feet.

            It is almost a year since that vote when 40 Labour councillors – all but one of them – expressed complete support for Newman and Hall. They still thought everything could be controlled. Why? Because that’s what the senior officials told them…

            The directors and officials are full-time staff, often on salaries of £80,000, some on £180,000. Councillors are often part-time hobbyists, most of whom put their party first.

            It should be obvious who’s running the show.

            It is a formula for catastrophe.

  2. Remember “Dont Mess with Croydon”?

    I wonder if Councillor Stuart Collins will assist me as I head down Factory Lane, using carefully eked out petroleum, to lug paper and cardboard up the gantry, in the absence of any recycling collection, or if indeed he’d envisage having to do this at nearly 80?

    The excuses like ‘driver shortage’ or ‘COVID impact’ will soon wear a bit thin. I’m not sure what ‘Cabinet Members’ in Croydon get paid, probably somewhere north of £40 grand p.a, but if they got paid by results, there ought to be a big cut in his case.

  3. Lewis White says:

    The problem with super-contracts is that all the eggs are placed in one basket. The contracts last years and years and years. There are also so few contractors that the normal rules of competition don’t really apply– there are few players in the market.

    Once upon a time Councils had their own dustcarts and dustmen. I wonder if there are any councils left with them ? Having a direct labour force had the advantage of flexibity as long as the council was not in the pockets of the unions, for dustmen had real power, and “Spanish practices” of job and finish allowed them to knock off hours before other council manual workers clocked off at 4:30 pm.

    My current observation of my local dustmen and recycling collectors ( a residential area of houses but no flats) is of people who certainly work hard, at speed. They sometimes run. They don’t leave the road strewn with the bits that fall out of the wheelies when being loaded. Spilled dustbins used to be a real problem in the old days of the hand-lifted dustbin into the back of the cart.

    Looking at the photos of rubbish bags stacking up outside blocks of flats and ripped open and strewn around by foxes and rats, I am wondering why priority is not being given to these places.

    The joy of the wheely huge rubbish bins that Croydon gave out to most individual houses is that they are outsized, so should give sufficient capacity for the odd missed collection, as long as people are putting rubbish in the right bin, and are putting the recycling in the equally large or larger recycling wheelies.

    Flats are very different, and no one wants to keep rubbish indoors for long. It pongs.

    I wouldn’t mind if my service dropped to every 3 weeks for maybe a few months, if the flats could be collected promptly (and Mitcham Common cleaned of fly tip). Residents–we all can help by recycling properly, and above, waste minimisation.

    Councils can’t improve services without money, and their supply of that commodity has been cut and cut and cut over the decades as the “rate support grant” as was, has been reduced year on year by central government.

    I am also wondering how much trading profit Veolia makes each year. And–who owns the dustcarts nowadays?

  4. John Harvey says:

    Bournemouth has reported on success in using drones for beach clearing administration . Could the size of SLWP make this a possibility for street clearing?

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