It's been close to six months since Croydon’s Labour administration imposed a new bin collection system on residents, without any prior consultation or an assessment of what individual neighbourhoods and streets actually needed. Many residents were very unhappy at being forced to take on 3-4 large new bins, which were far too big for the space available in the front of their properties. Most households also had their bin collection dates changed, adding to the anger and frustration felt.
We accept that such a large change in the bin collection system will have its initial teething problems and will take time to be fully operational. Residents were promised that everything would be fine after 12 weeks. However, six months later the system continues to be shambolic and dysfunctional, with no sign of things getting any better.
The main problem is that missed collections continue to persist across the Borough. Despite residents being assured that their missed collections will not occur again, the problems continue to persist for weeks. Sometimes, after interventions from their local Councillors, things improve for a week or so, only for the Council to go back to its bad old ways!
While having your bins not collected is very annoying, what is worse is that residents find it very difficult to report missed collections to the Council. There is an online system you are supposed to use, but on many occasions residents find that the systems tells them its their fault, as they had not ‘presented’ the bins on the right day. That Council speak for “you did not put your bins out on the day you were supposed to.” Many residents dispute this, but there is no way to tell the online system that they actually had put out their bins correctly! And if you then try calling the Council to speak to a human being, forget it! You will be put on hold endlessly, only to be finally told to report your missed collection online! So angry residents are simply made to go round in circles. And no consideration has been made for those residents who do not have access to a computer.
Under the old system, elderly and vulnerable residents had ‘assisted collections’, when they were unable to move bins from their homes to the end of their drives. However, many such residents suddenly found this system no longer worked for them because the Council had not passed on their requirements to the new bin crews who were now responsible for their streets. Despite numerous complaints to the Council, many of these residents have not had their assisted collections restored. I have recently been told of a frail 88-year old lady in Purley recently recovered from breast cancer, who has not had her bins collected for weeks. This state of affairs is completely unacceptable.
The other issue is around the quality of the new bins themselves. The Council has spent millions of pounds of our money in providing these bins, only for residents to find that the lids have broken off easily, while some of them have cracked in the cold weather. And of course, when residents have tried to request new bins, they have got nowhere with the Council.
The Council may conveniently blame this chaos on their private sector contractor, but what steps are they taking to ensure that the waste management contract is properly enforced? Are they planning to fine the contractor for missed collections, and then compensate Council Tax paying residents? I have asked Cllr Stuart Collins, the Labour Cabinet Member responsible for the service, about how much they have fined the contractor to date. So far, I have not yet received a response.
And its not just us in the Conservative Party who have been highlighting the chaotic state of our bin collection system. In the last few days, former Deputy Mayor of London and leading Croydon Labour resident Val Shawcross took to Twitter to demand action on continued problems with her own bin collections. In a series of Tweets, she blasted the appalling service she has received since Labour enforced the news system across the entire borough and implied that Labour’s cabinet member, Cllr Stuart Collins was failing to manage the external contractor.
The primary justification for this change in system was to save the Council money and improve our appallingly low recycling rates. While the Conservatives support these laudable aims, we will continue to highlight the poor state of the service and demand action from Labour to improve things. We simple cannot allow hard working Croydon Council tax payers, as well as our elderly and most vulnerable, to suffer from such a shambolic delivery of a vital Council service.
Cllr Vidhi Mohan
Shadow Cabinet Member for Clean, Green Croydon