Cheltenham Borough Councillor Roger Whyborn on waste collection cancellations in the snow
WHEN Ubico, which is responsible for collecting waste in Cheltenham, cancelled collections as a result of inches-deep snow last month, there was outrage. Councillor Roger Whyborn, the cabinet member at Cheltenham Borough Council responsible for the collections, responds to the criticism.
I appreciate the dissatisfaction shown by the public and we are sorry that we were unable to provide the level of service expected.
This was the first major bad weather disruption since the waste collection service went to alternate weekly collections of bin waste and recycling, with separate weekly food waste collections.
A lot of people complained about how long they had to wait for a collection, and about the way the council communicated its messages.
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I have ordered a review of what happened and the decisions made so we can identify what lessons need to be learnt and what further procedures should be put in place.
The decision to suspend collections while snow and ice were on the ground has been criticised by some, but in truth, nobody else is trying to send heavy lorries down icy side streets, or haul wheelie bins and boxes across icy pavements.
Comparisons with Tesco vans and the postal delivery do not hold up.
There has been criticism of Ubico, the contractor, but it has my unqualified backing in this decision.
Ubico is jointly owned by Cheltenham and Cotswold councils, and it is the same staff and managers who run Cheltenham's waste service as when they were directly employed by the borough council. Changing the contractor has not affected the service.
Other decisions – which were taken mainly by the council – were more finely balanced, especially the decision to suspend collections until the end of week ending January 25, and about how we should catch up from the stoppage. Contrary to the armchair advice which some people freely gave, catching up by throwing money at the problem wasn't an option; even if you could afford it, the extra vehicles and crews simply aren't there, when other councils are trying to do the same.
The crews 'banked' their hours in the stoppage, and worked long shifts to catch up, giving an advantage over councils who didn't.
The thaw on the Thursday, January 24, was not forecast by the Met Office, but as it was, a lot of effort was put into clearing accumulations of black bags off certain streets, and clearing backlogs at flats.
Lessons will need to be learnt. With 53,000 households in the town, it would be wrong to promise that everybody can have everything they expect. But the council, which has a very good track record on waste collection and recycling, will do all that can be done to improve the service in the future.