A Central Bedfordshire Council garden waste bag

When Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) announced last week that it is unlikely its garden waste collection service would resume in August, many residents took to social media to share their disappointment and to ask questions, such as ‘will I get a council tax refund?’.

The Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle took some of these questions/comments to the Council, its spokesperson’s responses are below:

 

Will CBC be issuing a council tax refund?

Council Tax is set each year to meet our expected budget requirement. This covers a range of services from roads, buses, bins to adult social care and looking after vulnerable children.

If there is a saving in one service, this is not refunded to residents, but it goes towards funding other council services that have incurred additional unexpected costs.

As collecting garden waste is not a legal requirement of councils, many councils have decided to charge a specific additional fee for those who want to have their garden waste collected. We do not do this; we aim to provide this service within our budget.

The current suspension of garden waste collections is because we do not have enough HGV drivers. This is part of a national issue and not something we can quickly and easily fix.

It is unlikely that we will be able to resume collecting garden waste without incurring additional costs. For example, we may need to use more agency drivers which costs us more. So, whilst it might seem like no service means no cost, this isn’t going to be the case.

We know this is disappointing with many people working in the garden at this time of year. We are working with our contractor to reinstate garden waste collections as soon as we possibly can.

 

Will you be able to send out garden waste bags to those who opted for the green bin and don’t have anything to use to take garden waste to a tidy tip?

If residents have kept hold of garden waste bags already issued, these can still be used. We will not be issuing garden waste bags and residents can use any suitable container to take garden waste to the tidy tips such as a bin liner or plastic storage box. Please be sure to empty the contents into the skips and not the bag/container.

 

Why are tidy tips still appointment only? Also, some people claim that they just showed up to dispose of rubbish and there weren’t any issues with not booking – is this likely?

Residents cannot turn up and use the tidy tips at any time, and we would ask residents to be considerate of others by not doing so.

Although site staff will use their common sense to allow occasional exceptions under some circumstances, booking remains in place for the safety of the site staff and residents alike, especially to better manage social distancing by avoiding peaks and troughs of demand, as well as to limit queuing traffic, which we know has become an issue for other local authorities.

We have increased the number of slots and there is generally plenty of availability and booking is quick and simple. It can be done from a phone and in most cases, slots can be booked on the same day.

 

Why can’t people just put garden waste in the black bin, after all it does decompose?

Residents with enough space in their gardens are encouraged to home compost their garden waste. Home composting is an excellent way to dispose and reuse garden waste.

Residents can make a composter out of any material, for example old pallets will make a great solid container and they will need a layer of plastic material on top to keep the rain out.

Composting can also be achieved by simply piling material together at the bottom of your garden. It will break down eventually.

If this is not an option, garden waste can be taken to the tidy tips by booking a slot online or over the phone or as a last resort the black bins can be used to dispose of garden waste.

We would appeal to residents to use their common sense to ensure this is not excessive or mean that the black bins are too heavy to easily move, as this would then risk non-collection of the bin.

 

When did your contractors first warn CBC that there may be an issue with staffing?

There have been staffing issues since the start of the pandemic, especially with waste collection where we are heavily reliant on the availability of agency staff, which can fluctuate.

Indeed, last year we were forced to temporarily suspend garden waste. We are in daily contact with the contractors to monitor staffing levels and the recent issue around HGV driver shortages.

The suspension started in the South on Monday 19 July. We kept in constant dialogue with the contractor during that week and had hoped on the Wednesday to source the staff to deploy, but by Friday 22 August it became clear that we had to suspend the collections in the North as well.

How much will your contractors be refunding CBC for not fulfilling the contract?

Our contract with FCC covers this type of eventuality. However, the current suspension of garden waste collections is because we do not have enough LGV drivers. This is a challenge for councils nationally and not something we can quickly and easily fix.

It is unlikely that we will be able to resume collecting garden waste without incurring additional costs. For example, the cost of drivers has escalated due to demand and the cost to dispose of more green waste in black bins.

Cllr Ian Dalgarno, executive member for community services, said:

“Despite our best efforts to keep garden waste collections going for as many people as possible, unfortunately, mainly due to an unprecedented national demand for HGV drivers, we are experiencing staff shortages at similar levels to the early part of the pandemic, and we need to prioritise the more critical collections like everyone’s black bins.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and ask residents to please bear with us at this difficult time. I realise this will be disappointing for many residents and would like to assure them we are working closely with our contractor and as soon as we can resume collections, we will but at this stage it’s not possible to say when.

“I would encourage residents with garden waste to make use of our four tidy tips and try to home compost where possible. We’ve added additional appointment slots to accommodate the extra demand.”

More information on tidy tips and other waste issues can be found here.