Petition for replacing ‘fundamentally flawed’ fortnightly bin collections in Basildon considered

Basildon Council has considered a petition from residents calling for the return of weekly black bin collections, after the new scheme seeing collections reduced to once fortnightly was slammed as “fundamentally flawed” and “destined to fail”.

At a meeting of the place scrutiny committee on February 6, Basildon borough councillors were presented with a statement by the member of the public who had created the e-petition, read out by an officer for the authority due to its author being unable to address attendees in person.

The petition put before the council stated that “to decrease (collections) from weekly to fortnightly will have a detrimental effect to residents and possibly cause environmental issues and fly-tipping”.

Between November 9 and the closing date of January 8, the petition gained over 2,600 signatures. Petitions with 1,000 or more signatures are automatically referred to the relevant service committee, with the petition’s creator noting in their statement that they were “amazed” that this appeared to be the first relating to the issue of waste collection frequency which had surpassed the threshold for discussion by the council.

The statement continued: “In our view, (residents) are receiving a gradual, stealthy decline in services, with black bag collections going from weekly to twice-monthly, garden waste collection now a service with an additional charge, and the implementation of sorting our own recyclables into separate canvas bags.

“Yet our council tax increases year by year, despite (the administration’s) manifesto statement in May 2021 detailing its promise not to implement such measures, and to retain weekly collections.”

The statement’s author went on to note that many were finding the task of storing additional waste and fitting it into one bin to be a “challenge or near-impossible”, and that a build up of waste and subsequent fly-tipping had created “hazardous and unsanitary conditions” in residential areas.

They called the council’s approach “not only fundamentally flawed, but destined to fail”.

“(The council) cannot be happy with how this has ended up,” they said. “We the residents and constituents, many of whom elected you into your positions, are definitely not happy.”

Councillors in attendance reflected upon residents’ frustrations when posing questions to council officers and Councillor Kevin Blake (Con. Burstead), the cabinet member for environment, carbon reduction and waste enforcement. Councillor Kevin Wingfield (Con. Laindon Park) asked whether the increase in fly-tipping incidents had been foreseen, and enquired if providing additional bins to larger households and making allowances for holiday periods during which more waste is generally produced would be considered.

Councillor Kerry Smith (Ind. Nethermayne) recounted seeing a post on social media platform Facebook advertising ad-hoc black bin collection services on a pay-per-bag basis, with the insinuation that much of this waste had likely ended up fly-tipped in residential areas across the borough.

Councillor Alex Harrison (Lab, Lee Chapel North) said he had witnessed “mountains” of black and pink waste sacks piling up in streets, with Cllr Wingfield adding that many residents “feel frustrated that they’re paying the price for the actions of their neighbours”.

Cllr Blake informed members that the administration would be installing a number of CCTV cameras in residential areas across the borough to monitor the ongoing situation, and that bi-weekly collections had produced many positive outcomes, including a reduction of landfill waste by roughly 23 per cent since the scheme was first implemented last November. He said that a return to weekly collections would likely come at a cost to the council of around £2.8 million – £4 million.

However, Cllr Blake said that the administration does accept “that there have been problems”, and that he is “big enough and certainly ugly enough to admit when things haven’t gone to plan”. He noted the petition and the “good, honest debate” it had sparked, and confirmed that the council would be replacing the current reusable refuse sacks provided after outrage amongst constituents.

Chairing the meeting, Councillor Sam Gascoyne (Con. Pitsea North-West) said: “We’re all striving for a cleaner, greener, more environmentally friendly Basildon – a better town and better borough, with god speed in achieving that aim.”

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Emma Doyle

Local Democracy Reporter

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