Edinburgh bin collections ‘haven’t improved since Festival’ according to residents

Binmen emptying wheelie bin into Rubbish Lorry in Edinburgh street
Binmen emptying wheelie bin into Rubbish Lorry in Edinburgh street
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AN overwhelming majority of city residents think council bin collections haven’t improved since the end of the festivals, according to an online Evening News vote.

Our straw poll of 1200 readers saw more than a quarter claim they were worse and 68 per cent describe them as “just as bad” – while only 5 per cent said they had improved.

The news comes as trade unions hit out at claims that bin men are finishing their shifts up to four hours early while complaints about missed collections soar.

As we revealed yesterday, a council document leaked to the Evening News said refuse staff are failing to work their contracted hours, bringing the council “into disrepute”.

The internal memo claimed bin men are rushing to complete their routes in order to get home early – leading to “unsafe working practices”.

It criticised a long-standing practice known as “task and finish”, which sees bin men go home after completing their usual route, instead of working until the end of their shift.

A council source told the News: “There’s firm evidence – unquestionable evidence – that some bin crews are leaving their shift three to four hours early, with the job half done.

“However, firm action will be getting taken on this.

“We all want to keep the bin service out of private hands, but if the bin crews continue to work like this, then the ­argument for privatisation will become overwhelming.”

But Unite, which represents council bin men, said it was “extremely disappointed that an unnamed council source is raising the spectre of privatisation for the council’s refuse services”.

The union’s depute Scottish secretary, Mary Alexander, said: “The ‘task and finish’ method of working was brought in by the council in 1989 as an incentive to crews to get the job done.

“If the council wants to re-negotiate that, then we will be ready to listen to whatever ­proposals they have.

“But we strongly dispute that our members are not ­doing the tasks assigned to them by managers.

“And we are extremely disappointed that unnamed council sources are raising the spectre of privatisation in this way. If it is designed as some kind of negotiating tactic, then it is unfair and underhanded.

“If there are members of the council who want to push a privatisation agenda, then they should do it in an open, transparent way in front of Edinburgh’s citizens, not hide behind anonymous quotes in the media.

“Our members have repeatedly told the council that there are problems of resourcing in the refuse service, with outdated equipment that makes it difficult for our members to do the job.

“Privatisation would make that worse, with money being diverted out of the public service and into private profits.”

Moves to privatise the city’s refuse collection service were abandoned in 2011 in the face of union opposition.

Recent figures show complaints about bin collections have rocketed by a third in a year. The council saw 53,862 complaints about missed or overflowing bins between July 2015 and July this year – an average of one every ten minutes.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “In 2011, when the council voted to keep waste services in-house, it was agreed that we would introduce new routes, shifts and increase productivity.

“Also as part of the council’s transformation programme we are implementing a number of other changes to ensure that our waste collection is efficient, effective and customer focused.

“We want to reduce the number of complaints, ­improve the way we interact with customers, invest in new vehicles, technology and fit-for-purpose depots to support our operations and target enforcement at those residents and businesses that misuse waste and recycling bins, particularly our on-street communal bins.

“I am extremely disappointed that an ‘unnamed source’ has raised the issue of privatisation, as at no point has this been the case.

“We are fully committed to keeping waste collection in-house and at no point has this been considered by the Capital coalition.

“However, we hope that Unite do recognise that changes need to be made and that they will work with us to deliver the service that the people of Edinburgh rightfully expect.”