OPPOSITION councillors have said they will be watching carefully to make sure city bosses keep their promise to end a controversial arrangement which allows bin men to go home up to four hours early.
The “task and finish” system – which saw refuse staff leave after completing their usual route rather than stay to the end of shift – was meant to have ended five years ago when the council agreed to abandon privatisation of bin collections.
But a briefing note leaked to the Evening News last month revealed the practice still continued.
Now environment convener Lesley Hinds has pledged to stop “task and finish” and help improve bin collections.
However, Tory group environment spokesman Nick Cook voiced some scepticism.
He said: “We welcome the announcement in principle but given previous commitments we will be keen to see if the promise is now delivered upon.
“Given previous assurances we don’t believe we can simply take the situation for granted.”
And he said ending the controversial practice would not solve the whole bins problem.
He added: “This is just one of a number of issues that have led to a poor quality of bin collection service.
“Even if this practice is successfully brought to an end, we will still need significant improvements across the waste collection service areas.
“The administration has had four years to deliver improvements and has failed to do so.”
Councillor Cook said the Conservatives wanted a “root and branch” review and a look at alternative ways of delivering it.
“The fact ‘task and finish’ has continued so long despite promises to the contrary is an indictment not just of those currently in charge of the council but of the previous administration.
“We will be keeping a very close eye on it this time.”
The Evening News’ Bin Watch campaign has seen readers highlighting overflowing bins across the city.
Chas Booth, the Green group’s environment spokesman, warned ending ‘task and finish’ was not a silver bullet to sort out the city’s refuse crisis.
He said: “There’s a universal agreement that this process is difficult to justify in the context of record numbers of bin collection complaints, and Greens agree it should come to an end.
“But any moves to phase out ‘task and finish’ must be made in collaboration and dialogue with the trade unions, and not simply imposed on them.
“And it must go hand in hand with a wider review of working practices to protect the health and safety of workers; ensure all the city’s waste is collected on time, and pay workers a fair wage for a fair day’s work.
“But simply ending ‘task and finish’ is not a silver bullet that will resolve all waste collection complaints – we need a fundamental review of the waste service, as set out in the ten-point action plan on waste and recycling last month.”
The council’s 24-hour complaints service was inundated with 53,862 complaints about missed or overflowing bin collections between July 2015 and July this year – an average of one every ten minutes right through the day and night.