Monday, 31 January 2011

Good news - Wheelie bins abandoned and fortnightly collections less likely

It is unusual for a Cornwall Council Cabinet report to be good news, but, in the circumstances, that must be the view of today's decision over the future of waste collections.

I've blogged in the past about the proposal to abandon weekly black bag collections and to impose wheelie bins. Those posts were based on the comments from the responsible cabinet member and briefings given to councillors.

Now the Cabinet has made clear how split it is on the issue. There are clearly those on the Cabinet who are violently opposed to a move away from weekly waste collections. Other Cabinet members want to see a change on the basis of the environmental benefits of weekly recycling and fortnightly black bag collections.

And so the agreement is to get quotes for both options and to ask the public what they think. Indeed, the Leader suggested that councillors ought to be campaigning in favour of their preferred option. I suspect that the Cabinet will still be split on the issue - largely on Conservative vs Independent lines and so the final decision will be an interesting one.

How will the final decision be made? Today I was told it will be a mixture of the costs proposed, the response of the public and the quality of the services which are proposed. All of this will continue to be a reserved matter for the Cabinet with 113 of Cornwall's 123 councillors locked out of the decision.

The other key change proposed was on the issue of wheelie bins. The original cabinet papers suggested that if Cornwall adopted fortnightly waste collections then there would be wheelie bins introduced in most of Cornwall. Now that proposal has been dropped and black bags will continue except in the former Penwith area where they already use wheelie bins.

Finally, I asked the Council to reconsider how disposable nappies and adult incontinence pads would be collected - particularly if fortnightly collections are to be introduced. These products cannot be recycled and have to be put in the general (black bag) waste. The prospect of keeping these in a house for up to 14 days - or even putting them out on the street - is not one that anyone wants.

In response, Cabinet Member Julian German said that he would look at extending the current medical waste collection service to collect nappies and pads.

And so we have no final decision yet on the waste issue but the chances of keeping weekly collections appears to have risen and we have got rid of the threat of wheelie bins clogging our streets (and rivers).

UPDATE - I've been told that the way the Council is thinking of asking for views is by issuing ballot papers with council tax bills. I've asked them also to make sure additional ballots are available from libraries and one stop shops so that as many people as possible can have their say. I've also asked for the case for each option to be put by an advocate from that side of the debate.

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