Robert Aldridge: Edinburgh's bin collection debacle is unacceptable
It's time the SNP and Labour council got a grip of the basic services in the city. And nowhere is their abject failure clearer than the debacle of the new bin collection service.
It is simply unacceptable that some people in the city have gone six or seven weeks without their bins being collected. It is outrageous that some people who report missed bin collections have not been believed because “the system” says they have been emptied.
There are true stories of one bin in a street full of missed bins being collected and the rest left, as the refuse collectors only collected the bin of the person who reported it.
There are people who, reluctantly, paid their £25 garden waste charge but haven’t seen a collection yet. The list goes on.
This might have been excusable if the change had been unexpected and forced on the council without warning. But there has been months of planning and preparation.
The question is why on Earth did the councillors in charge of this let it go ahead without being satisfied that it would work? Why didn’t they pilot the new system in one area of the city to iron out any problems before a city-wide roll out? And who thought it would be a great idea to change all the bin routes and at the same time introduce the new garden tax system?
It comes down to a failure of common sense and political leadership. Politicians can’t be expected to be experts in the technicalities of refuse collection. Our role is to bring a bit of layman’s common sense and to make sure things will work in the real world. That clearly hasn’t happened.
As Lib Dems we listened to the consultation on last year’s council budget where the overwhelming majority were against the garden waste charge. They knew, as we knew, that it was fraught with problems. We produced a balanced budget which stopped the charge.
All the Labour and SNP councillors voted for the charge ignoring the views of the public. It is little wonder that people have so little faith in consultations when they make their sensible views clear but are ignored.
There is a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Lib Dems have persuaded the council to look at a refund scheme for those who have paid the extra garden waste charge but who have not received the service they paid for. In any other walk of life if you pay for a service and don’t receive it you get your money back. That is only fair. We will see what the council comes up with.
We have also asked for it to be possible for people to register for the garden tax at any time rather than in rather arbitrary time slots. It is absurd that if you move into a new house you won’t be able to register to get your garden waste collected till February!
I know the council staff are working hard to try to sort the mess, but it shows a singular lack of ambition when their aim is to collect bins on the day they say they will be collected. They are now wanting to focus reporting on how many bins they have collected, rather than the ones they have failed to collect. And did you know that if you complain about a missed bin you haven’t made a complaint but simply made a “service request”?
One of my constituents wrote to me with very wise words. She said: “Change can be good but it needs a little forethought and planning.”
Robert Aldridge is the Liberal Democrat Group leader at Edinburgh City Council