Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council, in Staffordshire, is meeting today (11 January) to review its revamped recycling procedures after acknowledging that many residents are still having problems with their collections 18 months after a new service was introduced.
A new cabinet-led task and finish group was set up to “examine operational issues to try and solve problems and subsequently increase service efficiency.”
The new group, which is made up of councillors from all political parties,met for the first time this morning to outline measures it will need to take and have a timeline for when these changes will happen. It is not yet known when these will become public.
A previous review had taken place when the council was Labour-controlled in 2016 which found thousands of people had missed waste and recycling collections because staff were overworked and bin lorries were unable to access narrow streets.
The new Conservative-run council, which took power in December 2017 after a by-election, has organised the latest review. The authority is ‘famous’ for being targeted by the Daily Mail in the past for the number of bins and bags it provided for recycling, although several were for specific waste streams such as batteries.
Cllr Trevor Johnson, Cabinet member for environment and recycling commented that a “huge numbers of residents are constantly complaining – we simply can’t go on like this”.
The council confirmed earlier this month that during December, at one point there were nearly 45,000 outstanding collections. Adverse weather conditions and a busy Christmas period were blamed.
Newcastle-under-Lyme borough vowed to learn lessons from the mistakes and explained that plans are being put into place now to ensure that the recycling vehicle fleet doesn’t struggle when faced with problems.
In June 2016, a major overhaul of the recycling system was introduced which saw the council replace residents’ multiple sacks with a “simpler” collection system.
Under the changes, the council replaced the bags with: a green box for glass and cardboard, and a red box for metal and plastic bottles. Residents retained their blue boxes but use them for paper, small waste electricals, batteries and textiles.
Previously, householders in the borough could place as many as nine separate bags or containers out for collection.
Other changes included bringing the recycling service in-house, buying a new fleet and selling materials directly to companies to generate more income.
Cllr Johnson added that the task and finish group will “take a very thorough look at the current arrangements” and also confirmed that the council will work out the best way, however he warned that it will take time and asked residents for their patience during proceedings.
Speaking at a letsrecycle.com conference in March last year, the then-head of recycling at the council Trevor Nicoll explained that there had been challenges with the new service, including issues with assisted collection and a need for increased staffing of the call centre.
It was admitted that if changes were to be made again, if possible, the council would “limit the number of changes in one go, carefully select when to roll out, ensure that support services have enough resources in place and ensuring that any underlying issues have been solved”.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said this week that there are issues that still need addressing. He said: “This is a key council service that residents rightly expect to be delivered efficiently. Significant changes to the way recycling is collected were introduced long before my group took over control of the Council that have led to complaints over a long period. Lots of residents again experienced problems with collections over Christmas and New Year and although the weather exacerbated this there are clearly issues around the service which we need to tackle.”
Letsrecycle.com understands the current system of a weekly recycling collection will remain and that a “troubleshooting gang” may be made available to solve problems quickly where they occur.