Elderly, disabled people and anyone living in difficult to access houses will not be forced to use wheelie bins for their rubbish, Birmingham City Council insisted today.
In an attempt to draw a line under a row over plans to invest £61 million in a wheeled bins system the cabinet member for green issues, James McKay, said individual requirements would be taken into consideration and not every household would be suitable for the new method of collection.
Coun McKay decided to write to 119 city councillors setting out the case for wheelie bins to replace Birmingham’s black plastic refuse sacks after financial details of the scheme were leaked.
Declaring himself “genuinely shocked” at the actions of former Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Mullaney, who published a confidential cabinet report on the cost of the project, Coun McKay said the leak could damage the council’s chances of winning a funding bid to the Government to pay for the new bins.
The letter warned: “The bidding process is highly competitive, with local authorities across the country seeking a share of a limited pot of money. Understandably, Birmingham is seeking to maintain a competitive edge by not revealing the amount or details of its bid, which is not yet finalised.”
Coun McKay said he expected that between 90 and 95 per cent of households would be suitable for wheelie bins, which he said would increase recycling rates and bring Birmingham into line with most other towns and cities.
Under outline plans by the council, each household will get three wheelie bins. One will be for recyclable material, one for green waste and one for general household waste. Weekly household waste collections will be maintained.
Meanwhile, an inquiry is underway to discover who leaked the confidential cabinet report. Mr Mullaney, who insists it was in the public interest to expose the “insane” plan, was telephoned by the council’s Assistant Director of Legal Services, John Wynn, and asked to supply information about how he acquired the information.
It is understood that Mr Mullaney told Mr Wynn he knew the person who drove to his house in Moseley and posted the document through his letterbox, but refused to comment further. He did agree, however, to remove from his website a facsimile of the cabinet report.
City council leader Sir Albert Bore said: “I am very angry about this indeed. Whoever leaked the report could have prejudiced our bid to the Government for funding since the process is still open and we know that other cities are watching Birmingham very carefully.”
The full text of Coun McKay’s letter is as follows:
I am sure you are aware of the publicising of details of the Council’s DCLG bid.
It is genuinely shocking that sensitive contents of a Private Report should be shared in this way. The bidding process is highly competitive, with local authorities across the country seeking a share of a limited pot of money. Understandably, Birmingham is seeking to maintain a competitive edge by not revealing the amount or details of its bid, which is not yet finalised.
I would make the following points:
1. We know that wheeled bins are not suitable for every household. Experience in neighbouring authorities and other core cities has shown between 90 -95% of houses are suitable for a wheeled bin. We envisage similar levels of suitability here. The Council will of course not be introducing wheeled bins to properties that cannot accommodate them.
2. Some households will want larger bins. Some households will want smaller bins. Some households won’t be suitable for wheeled bins at all. We will obviously accommodate that. One size does not fit all.
3. We understand that some residents (the elderly and the disabled) may struggle with wheeled bins and we will continue to provide assisted collections to those households.
4. The current system of open boxes allows the wind to scatter paper and recyclates, while wheeled bins would prevent this leading to an improved street scene. Furthermore the increased capacity for recycling will allow residents to recycle more.
5. Experience shows that the use of wheeled bins does significantly increase recycling.
6. We should not misunderstand the relative importance put on food waste collections in the DCLG’s assessment criteria. While the separate collection of food waste can increase recycling rates, the introduction of separate food waste collections would not rank as highly in the bidding process as proposals that maintain weekly collections of residual waste.
7. The Council has not yet selected or consulted upon food waste collections, and at this stage all options are still open.
8. 80% of Local Authorities use wheeled bins.
I am truly disappointed that sensitive information has been released, potentially damaging Birmingham’s chances of receiving millions of pounds from the government.
I believe this bid will increase recycling, give us cleaner streets, and be a more cost-effective form of collection. It will also roll out an innovative incentive-based recycling project, further driving up recycling rates. It is a progressive, flexible scheme, which will deliver for our city, while being sensitive to the needs of our residents. In a time of austerity, this is a rare chance to make a transformational change to services in our city.
As always intended, on 17th August, we will start a full consultation with residents and the workforce. Through that process, we will give full details of the final bid.
Cllr James McKay
Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City