Waste service update - September 2019

Cllr John O'Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks, has issued an update on waste services in Birmingham...

At the end of August, we staged a “Love Your Street” day in Alum Rock. Over thirty officers from across the council and partners were out on Alum Rock Road, tackling a whole range of issues with the public and businesses. We had urgent repairs carried out to highways faults, spoke to traders about their legal duties around commercial waste, encroachment onto the pavement and food health and safety.

Crews removed almost 4 tonnes of waste from the street, carried out bag searches of suspected trade waste and we had an education stand to advise residents on recycling. You may even have seen the positive coverage on ITV and BBC WM as well as Birmingham Updates. The intention is to repeat this exercise across the year at similar hotspots.

On the same day, we also crushed two vehicles seized from fly-tippers. In both cases, the vehicles were unroadworthy and scrapping them was the only affordable option. One of them was the skip lorry used by a criminal who dumped 11 tonnes of waste in Handsworth and was sentenced to prison for that serious offence. Where we have evidence, the council will seek to prosecute offenders – but getting evidence that we can place before a court can be challenging, for understandable reasons.

One thing that did come out of the Alum Rock visit was the lack of knowledge of residents about the service available at the HRCs across the city. Officers were genuinely surprised at how many people didn’t know that they could get rid of waste for free at these sites, so I'd urge everyone to promote them to their family, friends, relatives and neighbours. The council website has full details at:

https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/hrc

The independent inquiry into the waste service is gathering data and views from the public. They met a panel of members of the public on Monday and have also met with the unions. They will be meeting with staff members and will also be holding a workshop with the relevant Overview and Scrutiny members. The report is scheduled for the Cabinet meeting at the end of October.

The £12 million investment in new vehicles cleared call-in before the summer break and the procurement process is moving. Demonstration vehicles are out with crews for assessment and the intention is to be able to start placing orders in October. It is likely that we’ll see the first new vehicles in the late spring of 2020.

As a result of the work carried out by staff across the service to improve collection rounds, missed collections reached a twelve-month low in August, but in the past three weeks, we have suffered from problems with vehicle breakdowns and staff absence. Two new long-term hire vehicles were delivered to our Redfern Road depot this week to help with the breakdown problems there. The depots are currently recovering those missed collections and the number of dropped roads has fallen significantly.

Very few roads are being dropped as a result of the crews running out of time, so it looks as though the round sizes and restructuring are broadly working. There have been a few issues across the city with roads being closed as a result of road works or other safety issues and it has proved impossible to get the large wagons safely up the roads, so these are having to be served by our smaller alley cat vehicles.

Over the next few years, the fleet will move to smaller vehicles and away from the 26-tonne wagons currently being used, which will increase the flexibility of the fleet to cope with our modern, congested city streets.

Meetings continue with the unions and I’m about to start on another round of visits to the depots to keep in touch with the crews and the street cleansing teams.

You will have seen coverage of a report from the Local Government Ombudsman in the past few weeks, highlighting a number of cases where the city council failed in terms of waste collection and  complaint handling. Cases do take some time to work through the complaints process, so these are historic in nature. I know that work is ongoing in the customer service team to improve their process, but the reality is that resolving the problems with the waste service will take pressure off the customer service team.

As I said at the start when taking on this role, fixing this service is not an overnight task, but progress is definitely being made across the service. We are not where we need to be, by any measure, but the number of dropped roads has halved on where it was in May and will continue to fall.

I hope that this helps you keep your residents up to date with the work being done across this part of the portfolio to improve this service.

This blog was posted on 18 September 2019

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