Bin Watch: Daily inspections carried out to ensure cleaner streets in the Capital
The news comes as council chiefs this week praised the “encouraging” progress being made with their 65-point action plan, launched last year to crack down on overflowing bins and dirty streets.
Meanwhile, a recent report from Keep Scotland Beautiful rated 97 per cent of the city’s streets as “clean”, up from 92 per cent in September.
But critics have said there is still a “long way to go” before the city is cleaned up for good, with continued concern about bins, fly-tipping and houses being missed during collections.
Launched in November, the action plan follows the Evening News’ ongoing Bin Watch campaign which has seen readers highlight overflowing bins.
The council said a number of “key actions” have now been achieved, including a reduction in missed collections and a rise in the percentage of street cleansing inquiries being addressed promptly.
It confirmed that since the practice of “task and finish” – which saw refuse staff leave after completing their usual route rather than stay to the end of shift – had also ceased.
Lesley Hinds, transport and environment leader at the city council, said it was good to see the plan was pushing forward.
She said: “It is encouraging to hear that the actions within this plan are beginning to have an impact – this is exactly the kind of result we hoped to begin to see when we approved it in November.
“However, we are well aware that issues still exist across waste and cleansing and initial improvements are no cause for complacency. We will continue to work hard to realise outstanding actions, creating a much more satisfactory, efficient service for everyone.”
One of the plan’s proposals is to change the charges for special uplifts for bulky items from £26 for up to six items to £5 per item to combat fly tipping.
The council said it hoped such a change would encourage residents to use the service, in turn reducing the incidence of fly-tipping of large items.
Nick Cook, the Tories’ transport and environment spokesman on the council, said he was pleased things appeared to be moving in the right direction.
He said: “I commend the Evening News for the impact its Bin Watch campaign has had on making the council sit up and take notice. I do, however, consider it a terrible indictment that the campaign was needed in the first place.
“The fact remains that service levels too often remain well below the standard taxpayers should expect. Similarly, a 65-point crisis plan – full, in many cases, of the most basic of actions – should never have been necessary.”
The council’s Waste and Improvement Plan update also sets out a number of ongoing actions, such as the development of a full training programme for frontline staff and the procurement of new, larger food waste recycling vehicles.
But Peter Lawson, Unite’s council convenor, said there was concern as to how things were working out for binmen on the ground.
He said: “The first is that new staff aren’t getting a proper induction, so it’s taking longer than it should for them to learn the job and get up to speed.
“Some of the new routes that managers have put in place don’t seem to be working out in practice and that’s something where they should be listening and learning from the experience of our members.
“And lastly, some areas of the city still don’t seem to have enough staffing or vehicles to do the job properly.
“We have repeatedly said that the fundamental problem is lack of cash. Our estimate is that the environmental service is underfunded to the tune of about £17 million, and things could become even worse given the cuts that are being proposed in the Scottish Government’s draft budget.
“Councillors need to be honest with the citizens of Edinburgh about that situation and start fighting for the resources our members need to get the job done.”
Cllr Hinds said the council’s Waste Improvement Plan was already looking to address these concerns.
She added: “Actions include ensuring effective training programmes, regular staff briefings and the recruitment of a full establishment of permanent employees, which will negate the need to provide induction training for agency staff.
“I accept, like Unite, that the last few years have been financially challenging for the council, particularly with the rise in demand for council services, which undoubtedly has had an impact.
“That said, we are making every effort to focus our resources to target problem areas while fully supporting and co-operating with staff.”
Green Party environment spokesman Chas Booth said the city was “heading in the right direction” but that there was still “a long way to go” before residents would have a reliable bin service.
He said: “There are still areas that are experiencing persistent complaints from residents about bins either being missed, not being picked up on time or not at all.
“What we want to see from the administration is a much more constructive approach where we listen to the helpful suggestions that are being put forward by the residents and by the workers.”
The council’s update comes after Leith Walk emerged as one of the Capital’s dirtiest streets, after inspectors from Keep Scotland Beautiful rated a random sample of roads across the city in September.
Gordon Burgess, owner of The Bed Shop and former chair of the Leith Business Association, said: “To me there appears to be a lack of joined-up thinking in the council. I don’t see a great deal of improvement, they need to be more proactive.”
At a glance: actions taken and ongoing projects
Identifying properties most missed by binmen.
Of the 372 most missed homes, 115 residents say that it is “no longer a problem”. Properties with repeat missed collections continue to be monitored.
“Task and finish” practice stopped. This previously saw refuse staff leave after completing their usual route rather than stay to the end of shift.
Increased supervision. The introduction of daily inspections by supervisors.
Identifying new routes for “barrow beat” staff. New routes identified along with suitable accommodation in the immediate area.
Bin fill sensors. Ongoing trial in an effort to reduce overflowing bins. Has
been extended to a night shift.
Special uplift charges. Change in charge for special uplifts for bulky items from £26 for up to six items to £5 per item to combat fly tipping.
Development of five-year training plan for frontline staff. This will include areas such as health and safety, customer service and legislation.
New street cleansing vans. To allow crews to be properly equipped. Work ongoing on required vehicle specifications.
Supply and maintenance of communal bins. Work ongoing to secure contract.
Vehicle replacement. Replacing 7.5-tonne food waste recycling vehicles with 12 tonne capability to increase capacity.