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Council’s rubbish plan goes ahead

THE COUNTY COUNCIL has given the go ahead to controversial plans to cut domestic rubbish collections. The Council’s scheme, to change from a weekly to a fortnightly collection for black bag rubbish, was this week rubber-stamped by the Council’s IPPG Cabinet.
The new regime, affecting black bag and glass waste, will be introduced in October.
Irate residents and concerned local Councillors have already voiced their fears that the changes are potentially hazardous. Questioned have been raised about the wisdom of the Cabinet’s decision and the impact it will have on the people of Pembrokeshire. Some Councillors are unconvinced that the cut in services was implemented to meet Welsh Government recycling targets, as the Council has claimed.
Speaking to The Herald, Councillor Huw George, Cabinet Member for Environment and Regulatory Services, claimed that fortnightly collections would reduce costs by an estimated £500,000 a year. In response to the question of whether or not this saving would be passed on as a rebate to residents who have already been billed for this year’s Council Tax, Cllr. George stated that:
“With regards to the question in respect of a reduction in Council Tax, you should be aware that the vast majority of funding for Pembrokeshire County Council services comes through the Welsh Government and they have announced very significant cuts to our income for future years, with greater reductions likely to come. We do therefore need to take some difficult decisions about the services we deliver and how we do so in order that we can continue to operate within the reduced budget available to us.”
He went on to say, “As you will be aware, the orange recycling bags and the food waste will continue to be a weekly service. Typically, over 70% of all domestic household waste is recyclable, which actually means that if someone is fully using the recycling services they will have less black bag waste to store over a fortnight than they were previously generating in a week. There is no compunction upon individual householders to recycle but, clearly it is their choice if they wish to minimize the amount of waste they have to store for up to two weeks.”
Lyndon Frayling, vice chairman of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, supported the new policy saying, “I make no apologies for doing so. This decision will help us achieve the huge savings we need to make (like every Council in the country) and make it easier to make the tough recycling targets set by the Welsh (Labour) Government. It will mean a change of routine for people but if the rest of Wales can cope with fortnightly collections, I do not believe it is beyond the scope of Pembrokeshire householders to do so as well.”
One angry parent, who wished to remain unnamed, spoke to The Herald by stating that she would face storing soiled nappies for up to two weeks in a small flat. Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dinas Cross, Bob Kilminster picked up her point:
“My biggest concern is for the large number of adults who receive social care packages and have to use incontinence or sanitary wear on a daily basis. These people are, by their conditions, rarely mobile and rely on the refuse collection service to dispose of the products they have to use on a regular basis. Going to a two week collection for these people may well cause huge problems. We could even experience increased social care costs as a result of this.”
Castle Ward resident, Dave Chalker, expressed his fear of a return to the scenes witnessed during the 1970s during the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’, with rubbish building up in people’s yards and gardens, causing smells that could encourage scavengers and vermin.
That view was supported by Sarah Llewellyn, Town Councillor for Castle Ward, who was sceptical about the value of the policy as a cost cutting measure. She told The Herald, “I would have thought this is a real backward step. Many householders simply do not have the space to store their household waste for prolonged periods or the means to make journeys to the nearest civic amenity sites. Who is going to clear up the mess, and at what cost?”
The Herald sought a response from Keep Wales Tidy on the issue of the carbon footprint left by motorists making additional trips to municipal sites but, even though the action group’s website states they ‘research environmental issues and identify good practice at a local and national level’, they took the position that they were ‘declining to comment because it is a local authority issue’.
A Garth Ward resident, who wished to remain anonymous, was more forthcoming in her criticism of the idea of transporting waste to a municipal refuse tip, saying, “I’m so angry. How is a mother with no car supposed to just take their rubbish to a tip some miles away? In a pram? On the bus? It is ridiculous. I will simply find the nearest area for communal weekly collection and leave it there”.
On this point Councillor David Howlett, Conservative, attempted to reassure constituents by stating that, “At last week’s meeting of the Environment Committee, concern was expressed in relation to sanitary waste, and we voted on an amended proposal that will mean this aspect will be given further consideration. Also, I understand that for certain flats and multi-occupancy properties that do not currently have food and glass collections, they will continue with weekly black bin bag collections until a solution is found.”
Councillor David Bryan, of Haverfordwest Priory ward, who supported the shift to fortnightly collections, commented on this issue, saying that, “The only caveat that is needed is that there must be consideration given to the particular problems concerned with multi occupied properties and the need to collect soiled disposable nappies. It is also extremely important that weekly food refuse collections should be retained.”
Lyndon Frayling, Councillor for Garth Ward, stated that flats and multi-occupancy properties are not affected. However, when pressed on how the Council defined multi occupancy properties, in light of the fact that several housing estates have communal collection points for multiple households, he failed to respond.
Councillor Huw George further explained the need for voters to take personal responsibility, saying, “We do acknowledge that there will be varying levels of inconvenience for some households but this can be minimized by increasing the amount recycled and as we have seen from other areas across Wales, people do adapt their habits and do cope. I do not accept that if the rest of Wales can successfully introduce fortnightly collections for the black bag rubbish that Pembrokeshire cannot also do the same, but I appreciate that it will be more difficult for some than others”.
On the issue of transportation of refuse he merely stated that, “If an individual does have more waste than they can store between collections on any particular occasion then they will still be able to take their rubbish to their nearest civic amenity and recycling centre, but obviously they would have to get it there”.
Thomas Tudor and Paul Miller, from the Labour Group, both confirmed their support of the new policy, stating it was intended to encourage recycling, whilst acknowledging the resulting difficulties it would pose, promising electors that the situation would be monitored with an expectation that it should be ‘working’ in six months’ time.
Two Councillors expressing grave concerns over this issue were Vivien and Mike Stoddart, of Hakin and Hubberston respectively, who, speaking exclusively to The Herald, issued the following statement,
“We have expressed our concern to the County Council about the impact of fortnightly black bin bag collections on our constituents, particularly those living in flats and multi-occupancy properties. We have many such properties in our wards. Fortnightly collections of black bags (residual waste which, for family households, is a euphemism for nappies and sanitary waste) will bear down especially hard on our constituents, as storing this waste will be a problem for families living in flats. At the urging of a few opposition Councillors, the Council has agreed to consider the arrangements for dealing with sanitary waste, but the Council has also stated they will not provide additional collections; nor will they provide wheelie bins. So, we are not sure what these arrangements might be and if they will solve the problem for our families”.
Both Councillors, as of Wednesday of this week, were awaiting assurances from Cllr George that face to face contact would take place between flat dwellers, landlords and Council to ensure provision of suitable storage space.
Only last year, Eric Pickles, speaking as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, described weekly collections as a ‘basic right’ and accused Councils that were reducing the frequency of collections as actions which were both ‘lazy and unnecessary”.
From October 14th 2013 Pembrokeshire residents will have no choice but to see how this shift in policy affects them, their families, their neighborhood and their well-being.