Today’s Executive meeting of Tory controlled Sedgemoor District Council voted unanimously to implement the new ‘Recycle More’ service model for rubbish collection which meant increasing the amount of recycling to include plastics but to increase the timescale for general waste collection to 3 weeks. This brings Sedgemoor in line with other councils across Somerset which have been voting on the change but has raised many questions in urban areas such as Bridgwater which are likely to be adversely affected by the plans.
Sedgemoor’s Executive, which is 100% Tory, rejoiced in the decision with enthusiasm. Cllr Caswell (Con, Quantocks) said “It’s a really, really, really, really good idea” before explaining how his own rubbish bags were often uncollected, attacked by seagulls and infested with maggots. Cllr Bown (Con, Wembdon) said it would be mainly a problem for the elderly but “they’re not really interested in saving the planet”. She was quickly advised by the officers “actually, research shows that the older you are the more likely you are to recycle”. Cllr Slocombe (Con Wyndham) the portfolio holder responsible, said “The perfect solution would be more recycling and no change in rubbish collection, but life isn’t perfect. If people recycled properly there would be almost nothing in your refuse after 3 weeks anyway.”
At the Executive meeting Labour speakers opposed the move to 3 weekly collection. Cllr Brian Smedley (Lab,Westover) said “The trials for this were conducted in Wiveliscombe which is not in the slightest bit similar to Bridgwater. Other areas of the country manage to stick to weekly recycling, fortnightly general waste collection and to collect plastics too, so it’s obviously possible. I’m afraid this is a cynical cost cutting exercise to make spurious savings and roll out a service change which will give with one hand and take away with the other.”
During the afternoon the council’s Corporate Scrutiny committee met to consider the executives proposals. Cllr Smedley chaired the lively meeting which went on past the official time allocated because so many councillors and members of the public wanted to speak and ask awkward questions to the officers. “How would the bigger vehicles get round the country lanes and narrow town streets?” “Won’t there just be rubbish all over the place?” “Won’t people forget what day the bin collection is and rubbish will stay out for maybe 6 weeks?” “What about when people go away on holiday?” “What about houses in multi occupation? What about flats?” “Won’t there just be more rubbish for the seagulls to attack or the wind to blow everywhere or to get stuck under cars or in gardens?” “What about nappies-how long can they remain uncollected?” “Won’t it lead to extra flytipping?”
Officers answered in detail all the points, explained that they would monitor the whole process and respond to phone calls where areas had problems and intervene to solve the issues, but as the meeting lumbered on with questions and answers on the verge of needing recycling themselves, Cllr Slocombe intervened to put the Executives case again in order to quell an uprising in her own backbenches “We have to make savings. The business case is sound. Recycling will continue as it was, there’ll just be one extra bag for plastics. I have trialled this myself and it’s not as onerous as it sounds. Of course it will be a challenge for some areas – flats and terraces, but rubbish is high on my agenda and people are clamouring for increased recycling. We have to do this, there’s no choice.”
The Scrutiny Committee, in attempting to come up with a resolution was faced with a virtual fait accompli, nevertheless valiantly – and across party lines – sought ways to mitigate the steamroller plans for 3 weekly collection. Cllr Mick Lerry (Lab, Victoria) made a proposal and was backed by Cllr Mark Healey (Con, Puriton) which urged the Council to ‘relook at trials in both urban and rural areas with further pilots and monitoring to ascertain the impact on residents and also that the recycling containers and vehicles be reviewed and request a report back to the council.’
The recommendation was passed by majority vote and would go to Full Council on December 14th
Cllr Mick Lerry said “A number of District Councils are supporting the move to a 3 weekly waste collection and the SDC Executive have agreed, due to the initial savings involved. As the three weekly refuse pilots have been limited it is important to make sure that residents are protected from the impact of the proposed changes. I am concerned about the present containers for recycling and whether or not households can mange the change to a three weekly refuse collection. At the moment we have kerb side sorting of recyclable items and in other authorities recycling materials are placed in one large container with wheels with a separate container for food waste. In the long term this might be a better option, but the start up costs are more expensive; but, in the long term this option could be more beneficial for increased recycling and easier for residents to manage. Increasing recycling is very important, but we have to make sure this valuable service is managed properly and avoids any detrimental impacts on residents”
Cllr Smedley said “People obviously welcome an extension of recycling to include plastics but are clearly not happy with a move to 3 weekly collection and especially in urban areas like Bridgwater. The Labour Town Council is totally opposed to 3 weekly collection and we will be asking Tory Sedgemoor to think again about this, especially in the light of comments that came up at the scrutiny committee today”
Anyone wishing to speak at the Sedgemoor Council meeting of Wednesday December 14th (2.30 Bridgwater House) should contact Democratic Services (01278 435435) or email@example.com.
Labour’s Environment Spokesperson Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover) said “We want people to be able to recycle as much as possible. However, the proposed three weekly general waste collections will cause particular difficulty to those who are not able to recycle anything at the moment, particularly those who live in flats. Therefore we want to hear from anyone who has limited or no recycling facilities. ” Contact Kath on firstname.lastname@example.org