• Antonia Ryan

Council must get their act together over garden waste

On 22nd July, Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) announced it would be pausing garden waste collections stating, "An increase in staff needing to self-isolate due to COVID-19 is further compounding the issue". At the time the Council encouraged people to 'home compost' or use 'our Household Waste Recycling Centres'. Of course, residents can't just turn up at the tip, all visits must be pre-booked due to a system implemented during the initial stages of the COVID pandemic.


What's more, any residents who agreed to CBC's suggestion of swapping their garden waste bags for a green waste bin earlier this year, no longer have garden waste bags to transport their waste to the tip!


CBC is encouraging residents to compost green waste but is still charging £20 for a compost bin.

No date was given for resumption of the service although many assumed it would start up again as soon as reported COVID cases started to drop. In the week ending 20th July, an average of 46,814 positive COVID cases were reported in the U.K. [1].


In recent days Councillors have asked CBC whether the garden waste collections could resume now given cases of COVID have reduced. Also pointed out the Government had brought in new rules whereby companies employed in the waste industry would be exempt from track and trace [2], although importantly they had to register to be allowed to opt out.

The Council has admitted that its waste contractor has not yet managed to become exempt from track and trace, although this will cease to become relevant by next week when the rules are further relaxed.


The Council also appears to have changed its tune as it has now admitted that isolation is no longer the issue, stating "Brexit has reduced the availability of both skilled and unskilled workers and this is impacting FCC’s ability to secure qualified drivers in particular", and also blamed "the substantial backlog of outstanding LGV tests due to Covid and recent changes to the HMRC rules concerning individual limited companies (IR35), all leading to a reduction in the number of qualified LGV drivers available." Which is frustrating for the contractor but residents who have paid their Council Tax and expect a service might argue the contractor should have done more to prepare for this outcome.


CBC says the contractor is "exploring ways to improve staff availability" which includes "reviewing pay and conditions for drivers and developing new ways to attract people into the waste sector". Or in other words, paying the staff some more money.

And that's not the only problem. The same contractor is struggling to clean the streets too!


At the request of Councillors, CBC agreed to allow residents to use a van for transporting garden waste to the tip if that is their only mode of transport. To get permission for your van, call CBC on 0300 300 8302 or email customers@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.


In the meantime, Councillors have proposed several actions:

- Offer up to two garden waste bags to anyone who needs one, given bags are more easily transported to the tip than a wheelie bin. - Review whether time slots at the tip can be reduced from the current 20 minutes, without resulting in queues forming. - Extend garden waste collection further into the winter months if all garden waste is not all removed by the end of November. - Investigate reducing the price of composting bins to encourage more home composting.

In case the Council drags its feet, these have been submitted formally to be


considered at a Council meeting in September.

Appendices:

[1] Statistics taken from here: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases [2] New Government guidelines can be found here under 'Critical services' https://www.gov.uk/.../nhs-test-and-trace-workplace...


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