Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Rubbish Christmas

You may already have read here my not so favourable view of local Government, and in particular here, of the waste collection services. Apparently the culprits have not all read my rantings, spread the word and mended their ways. In fact, I'm not entirely sure they have even been reading my blog.

You may be in one of the areas that have not had rubbish collection for up to 4 weeks. If you do, you have my sympathies. And probably rats. The silver lining though will be the 1/12 rebate of the £1000-2000 or so you pay a year in council tax for this service. Ah, if only it were that simple. As usual, a quick glance at the real world (private sector) reveals the imaginary one to be just that - a fantasy for them, or a nightmare for us. Unfortunately, as previously discussed, it is not one we can do much about.

If you employed a private company to come and get your rubbish, even the most rudimentary contract would have got you your rebate over the Christmas collection failure. If you don't do what you are paid for in the real world, you don't get paid. People take their business elsewhere. But again, you can't go to a better local council to provide your services, you can't withdraw your money and go private. Nope, you're stuck with it, you can't haggle for a discount or move your custom when they turn out to be crap. How much would private traders pay for that kind of lock-in? Gotta love the system.

Yes, drives, street corners and alleyways across the country are littered (I couldn't resist) with bags of uncollected rubbish (though they could hardly be littered with collected rubbish). Many local councils stopped collections because their binmen might slip in the snow and ice. In work boots. I have a pair, they are to walking on ice what a Land Rover is to driving on it. So, here we are with no collections for weeks.

The incredible incapacity of local Government to carry out even the most basic of tasks was typified by one Kevin Mitchell, Birmingham City Council's assistant director of fleet and waste management: "It is a triple whammy. This all happened during Christmas, with three Bank Holidays and 420,000 extra turkey carcasses to collect." Yes Kevin. Sometimes it snows at Christmas. It might be an idea to have some form of bad weather plan, if you are a multi-million pound service supplier. The calendar is also reasonably predictable. Or totally. Even if we grant that until his trade union sent him his 2010 calendar for Christmas 2009 he didn't know Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day would all fall on weekends, that still gave him a year. Oh, and as with all the Christmas Days for quite some time, lots of turkeys will be eaten, but it's still just lunch or dinner. People don't eat it as well as their 'normal' meal so there is not vastly more waste than any other lunch or dinner really.

I think we've pretty much flogged this one to death, but you just know that for all the talk of lessons learned that we will undoubtedly hear when they bother to come back to work, it will just be talk. Seeing as local Government is now amending its end of the deal as council tax rockets whilst services are cut, maybe we should start amending our end. Opt out anyone? It is all well and good the Tories talking of decentralisation of power, but a glance at what some of the likely recipients of new powers are already doing doesn't make for pretty reading. Small Government is a good thing, but before we hand power out to local Government, it needs root and branch restructuring.

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