Bin collectors and council staff hailed as “unsung heroes” of pandemic response
Bin collectors and other frontline council staff in Wrexham and Flintshire have been hailed as the unsung heroes of the coronavirus crisis.
Despite the risk of contracting the illness, refuse workers in both counties have continued to empty general rubbish and recycling bins as normal with the only service suspended being garden waste collections in Flintshire.
Crews have faced incidents where residents have left tissues in open recycling bags, leading to calls for people to stop in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Social care staff and teachers have also carried on performing vital roles in their communities during unprecedented times.
While much praise has been levelled at NHS workers, politicians in both counties said it was important that the contribution of frontline council employees is recognised.
Wrexham Councillor I David Bithell has also singled employees in his county out for praise.
The independent politician, who represents the Stansty ward, said: “In these difficult times when we are all called upon to appreciate our front-line NHS staff more than ever before, we must not forget those staff who, while they are not directly saving lives in a clinical environment, are never-the-less an integral part of our daily well-being.
“These are our refuse collectors, who take away our rubbish, and therefore enable our lives to be cleaner, and clutter-free.
“Therefore, it is appalling that refuse collectors in some parts of the country have been verbally abused by members of the public.
“I think we should all realise that the times we are currently living in are far from normal, and therefore, we should try to exercise some self-restraint when we become frustrated, and appreciate the staff who are attempting to carry on as normal and deliver a much needed service whilst many of us are forced to remain at home.”
Meanwhile Carolyn Thomas, deputy leader of Flintshire Council, said: “I see lots of support, quite rightly, for NHS workers and people keeping food supplies going, but please can we also recognise the role of council employees and give them some appreciation for all they are doing?
“Remember that key workers are also social health care workers, working in care homes and in the community delivering domiciliary care managed through the council.
“The NHS is asking councils to find more room for patients as they clear wards and there is a lot of strain on managers who are trying to organise this as more staff are self-isolating or returning to NHS work.
“Also, the waste operatives are still collecting rubbish in difficult circumstances. The amount of waste is increasing as people stay at home.
“The operatives have to still try to social distance, and some have gone into self-isolation so others are helping out. A friendly word of appreciation, assistance and tolerance goes a long way.”
The Labour cabinet member for streetscene and countryside said despite the best efforts of local authority staff, some had received abuse from members of the public.
Others have demanded a council tax rebate because of schools only being accessible to the children of key workers or due to the closure of recycling centres.
However, Cllr Thomas said many people were not aware that council tax only accounts for around 28 per cent of funding for local authorities, with the rest coming from central government.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)
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