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Council in three weekly bin collection u-turn as proposal deemed a ‘must’ is scrapped

Wrexham Council’s ruling administration have backed away from a plan to move to three weekly bin collections, saying there was no firm plans to do so all along despite councillors told the authority ‘must’ do it. 

That is despite councillors being presented with a report that stated: “​If we are to meet our pledge as part of the carbon reduction action plan then we must introduce a change to our waste collection frequency. ”

The report contained an evaluation of options, which were “​3 weekly” bin collection change or “​do nothing”.  Advice to councillors pointed that a three weekly collection would cost less and improve recycling towards targets, whereas doing nothing would cost more as it meant not hitting targets. 

No other ‘options’ were put before councillors.  Two scenarios were also ‘modelled’, both matching the ‘options’. 

Internally it was known that the proposals were not being carried forward in the forthcoming budget, likely due to more cash available to Wrexham Council than previously expected due to the better settlement from Welsh Government, and therefore a political decision was made not to mess with the town’s bin collection schedule. 

Some councillors speculated to Wrexham. com that yesterday’s meeting could be pulled, or very short if the report was pulled by the Lead Member. 

The speculation was not far off the mark as the meeting saw a highly unusual statement issued at the start by Council Leader Mark Pritchard where he said that the local authority would not be introducing changes to the household waste collections as part of the next financial year. 

Addressing the committee, Cllr Pritchard said: “As lead member for finance, performance, health and safety and governance I have prepared a report on revenue budget 2020/21 which will be considered at the executive board next Tuesday. 

“In this report I am recommending that the council does not change its refuse collection and recycling arrangement and does not move to three weekly collection in the next budget year. 

“I believe that other lead members will support this position next week but clearly I would not want to pre-empt the board consideration next week. ”

20 people in the room – councillors, council officers plus this is being webcast which costs money.  Bit of a waste of time and money? How soon was this position known might be a question the committee asks 👀

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

The announcement was welcomed by several councillors, some of which had attended the meeting specifically to speak against what they saw as proposed changes to household waste collections. 

Officer says this report brings ‘factual position’ before the committee – the report itself speaks about two scenarios that have been looked at.  Discussion is being widen out as 3-weekly has been politically scrapped despite being a ‘must’ pic. twitter. com/rk86YUVfGM

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

However there was acknowledgement from the committee that further work needs to be done to increase the recycling levels across the county borough. 

Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David A Bithell, said the local authority needs to “​consider the long-term aspirations of reaching the statutory target of 70 per cent” recycling within the next five years. 

Although recycling levels in the county borough have increased from just three per cent in the early noughties, there is still a fluctuation in the volume throughout the year. 

Cllr Bithell says ‘something’ needs to be done to help meet targets, however with the 3-weekly collection plan off the table it is unclear what the new specific plan is.  Report does not give an alternative ‘must’ as it states ‘do nothing’ or bin collection change. Both not option. 

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

He also noted that in last 12 months in-cab technology on the refuse collection fleet has recorded 6500 either contaminated boxes or bins – meaning the wrong items have been placed in the boxes or household waste bins, however it was pointed out that the council collect several million bins a year. 

Cllr Bithell says video evidence has been used lately to solve a dispute.  Resident said bin out and missed, crew said it wasn’t.  VAR verdict? Bin was put out correctly.  pic. twitter. com/kBkotAlqUR

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

Cllr Paul Blackwell, Plas Madoc ward, said that more needs to be done to get members of the public on board and recycling rather rather than relying on the black bins to dispose of waste. 

He said: “​We need to come up with some initiative and some way of getting that over the hurdle.  We need to look into it as a year or two year period and maybe set up a task and finish group and see how we get the public on board and recycling that bit more so that we can move potentially without causing too much disruption to the three-weekly collections. 

“We don’t want to be facing three-weekly collections in another years time having done no work getting our residents to recycle a bit more and changing their behaviours. 

“We can’t go to three-weekly collection until we’ve sorted this out.  I’ve got residents who can barely cope with two-weekly collections. ”

Cllr Graham Rogers “​here we are again talking about 3 weekly collections” says was “​alarmed” but happy won’t occur in coming year.  Guarantees will be next year, warns “​I will not support 3 weekly collections”. 

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

Cllr Alun Jenkins, Offa ward, said: “We have to make changes, there is an urgency. 

“I remember the days when recycling was at three per cent.  It took a huge campaign to explain things to the public win the hearts and minds of the public and in the years since we have gone to the mid 60s. 

“That step change is needed to tip us over 70 per cent is a major one and it’s not one we can do by tweaking.  It’s one that has to be done with careful thought

“We are at a point where in order to achieve we have to have a new change of approach where we go back to the public – does it mean bringing Recycle with Michael back again? It was a very successful campaign. 

“Maybe we need something similar now to win people over. ”

Cllr Davies says ‘direction of report has changed’ from 3 weekly collections to policy, notes officer has said lots of other options out there and an addendum list would be useful, ‘as report is 3 weekly collections or do nothing’. 

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

Darren Williams, chief environment officer at Wrexham Council, said: “This not a new phenomenon.  This is not something that we have suddenly decided we need to do. 

“We have plucked all the low hanging fruit.  When started in 2002 we were around three per cent and we and moved up to 70 per cent.  That is in no small thanks to the residents of the county borough and to members and to officers who have trying to develop policy directions that got us to that point. 

“If you read some of the press and the Welsh Government consultation and look at whats happening cross the UK and Wales, the low hanging fruit has been plucked. 

“I do understand we need to strive to find some miraculous solution to get over last hurdle, but unfortunately it comes down to point when have to consider in that some enforcement work. 

“While there is still capacity in black bins and some people are putting waste in black bins that is recyclable, then we are failing.  We are either failing because we’re giving them the ability to do that and they can’t change, or we’re not educating them. 

“We’re trying to tackle the education policy and we’re trying to do a little bit more on that.  But ultimately while there is still room in black bins some people are continuing to throw recyclables into black bins. ”

Cllr Bithell says ‘we have not changed direction of the report’ says was due before the General Election.  Notes change has been ‘budgetary’ only. 

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

Cllr Lowe yet another who was under impression 3 weekly bins was thrust of this meeting – and said he would not have supported the proposal.  Delighted it won’t be going to a vote after earlier statement by Council Leader. 

— Wrexham. com (@wrexham) January 22, 2020

In terms of further education on recycling and encouraging residents to do more, Cllr Bithell said work had been carried out on “behavioural change” and that the Welsh Government is looking at running a national campaign on how to “educate the public better on how they recycle. ”

Locally work has been carried out with schools and articles have been published on the council’s news blog. 

Members of the committee agreed to set up a Task and Finish Group to look into what can be done to help meet the council’s recycling target. 

The public announcement that the three weekly bin collection plan was effectively politically scrapped was badly timed, as it came out at the same time the information on a 6. 95% council tax rise proposals were made public.  Many reactions to our article on the council tax rise have referenced the three weekly collection plan as the wider knowledge of the meeting yesterday afternoon had not filtered through to the people of Wrexham. 

Top pic: Micheal, recycling. 

Below is a video of the meeting as seen from the public gallery…

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