Bin complaints wait up to 45 mins on phone

A refuse collector with one of the new-style landfill bins. Picture: Ian Georgeson
A refuse collector with one of the new-style landfill bins. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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RESIDENTS ringing the council about refuse problems face an average wait of almost 11 minutes before their call is answered, new figures have revealed.

And one councillor said he knew of a case where a man was left hanging on the phone for 45 minutes before giving up.

Council chiefs admitted the delays in answering phone calls were “unacceptable” and insisted officials were addressing the issue.

But the figures came as it was also revealed the council has a massive 10,500-strong backlog of requests from householders for bins.

And Nick Cook, Tory environment spokesman at the council, claimed that despite evidence of an increase in recycling as a result of the new refuse system being rolled out across the city, the figures showed the service itself was getting worse rather than better.

The new system includes a single bin for most recyclable items and halving the size of the wheelie bins for residual household waste. Last month, environment convener Lesley Hinds hailed a 102 per cent increase in recycling among wheelie bin users as a “tremendous achievement”.

But Tory councillor Nick Cook said: “The administration’s rhetoric does not seem to match what residents are actually experiencing.”

Figures on phone delays show that in July, the average waiting time for people calling the council about waste problems was 10 mins 49 secs – almost four times the average wait of 2 mins 47 secs recorded for May.

Phone calls about environmental issues were answered after an average of 5 mins 43 secs and calls for special uplifts after 5 mins 30 secs.

Tory group leader Cameron Rose pointed out the figures were averages, so some people were left hanging even longer – and he said one constituent had complained to him that he had been on the phone for 45 minutes to report a refuse problem before he gave up.

And he claimed the phone delays were “just the tip of the iceberg highlighting an unsatisfactory service”.

He said: “We have a major problem over three years into this administration with the state of our core services, in particular in relation to waste collection.”

Councillor Hinds acknowledged: “The time people have to wait on the phone is unacceptable.”

But she claimed the recycling service was a victim of its own success. She said: ”As people are changing their behaviour, and recycling, there has been a massive increase in requests for recycling bins and food caddies.” She said there had also been problems because one of the companies which supplied bins had shut down for a month without warning. But she said work was now under way to get the situation “back on track”.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com