Big concerns voiced over council move to drop weekly bin service, reports James Cracknell
Cuts to kerbside bin collections are being called into question after Enfield Council’s public consultation was described as a “sham” by the former deputy leader.
Councillor Daniel Anderson was involved in top-level discussions about the waste service changes, which he and and rest of the Labour cabinet approved earlier this year, but has now hit out at the way it has been handled.
Nearly 6,000 people have signed a petition against axing both weekly black and blue bin collections – which the council hopes will boost recycling rates and save at least £2million.
Cllr Anderson stood down as deputy leader last month. Speaking to the Dispatch about the impending changes to waste collections,he said: “I sought to stop this fiasco from happening. I tried to warn that if we proceeded with this it would be a sham consultation. You can only consult on options that are viable – it is ridiculous to consult on options that are not viable.
“You can’t give people the false hope of keeping weekly bin collections, when that was never going to happen. This has caused tremendous reputational damage to the council.”
The public consultation in December and January included seven potential options for changes that would save the council money and increase recycling, plus keeping the service as it was. The least popular option – making both general waste and dry recycling bin collections fortnightly, charging £65 a year for garden waste, and introducing weekly food waste collections – was the option subsequently approved. As well as saving £2m it included an additional £500,000 of spending on for street cleaning.
But Cllr Anderson doubts whether this money can actually be raised. He said: “The question is whether it will save us this money – my concern is it won’t. That saving [of £2m] is predicated on people buying the green bins for garden waste.”
The former deputy leader says he does still support the council’s move to make black bin collections fortnightly, but disagrees with also axing weekly blue bin collections, which he believes will hinder efforts to boost Enfield borough’s below-average recycling rate.
“You have to get people to use their blue bin, but if you are decreasing the frequency of both black and blue bins, where is the incentive? To make four major changes to waste collections all in one go – it is almost unprecedented.”
Asked why he didn’t resign at the time of the decision, instead of voting it through along with the rest of the cabinet, Cllr Anderson said he wanted to be “inside rather than outside” the decision-making process. He and several cabinet colleagues eventually stood down in May (Council leader defends administration after latest Labour turmoil).
Councillor Joanne Laban, leader of the opposition Conservatives on the council, has been a long-time opponent of the bin changes. She told the Dispatch: “Some of the options in the council’s consultation didn’t even comply with the Mayor of London’s environment strategy, so were never viable anyway. Why consult on something you’re not going to take forward?
“Having given people all these options, the council then wanted to ignore what residents said and pick the one that was least popular. Now people are wondering; ‘what’s the point in ever getting involved with public consultations?’
“They feel the council doesn’t give two hoots about them.”
A council spokesperson has defended both the public consultation and the agreed changes to waste collections. They said: “All issues relating to the ten-week consultation and new waste arrangements were comprehensively addressed in the report approved by the entire cabinet on 13th February. The cabinet, which included Cllr Anderson, unanimously voted in favour of this report with no abstentions, a decision then approved by the overview and scrutiny committee.
“We were clear that the overriding motivation for any change was saving money due to government funding cuts, including the decision to end a grant to retain weekly collections. The stark reality is that core government funding for Enfield has been cut in half since 2010, with further £18m savings in 2019/20 and £12m in 2020/21 – a reduction in funding of 60 pence in every pound since 2010.
“The council chooses to continue to protect our most vulnerable residents with the tight budget we have available. This includes putting £1m into children’s services. Councils simply cannot deliver services in the same way we have previously.”