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ANOTHER LOAD OF RUBBISH IN SANDWELL

30-04-2007

Ahead of the media pack as always, The Stirrer was discussing local council rubbish collections a week ago. Lynn Hawthorn is a Sandwell resident who’s keen to get into the swing of the recycling thing…she’s just finding it rather difficult.

To check out Lynn’s original article click here. And to see the response from Sandwell Council click here. Now read Lynn’s latest update.

I was delighted when my article last week received a response from Councillor Mahboob Hussain, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods at Sandwell Council.

I got a better response from my article than I did from three ‘phone calls, so the success of The Stirrer is proven!

I’m not sure whether he thought I was unsupportive of the scheme. I am quite the opposite, but I can’t get to grips with why my bin wasn’t emptied, so I’d like to take issue with him, as his response was general, the type of thing you expect at a press conference, and not at all specific to my case or, indeed, others in my situation.

I never received the collections calendar he mentioned, but because I hadn’t seen any of his “media activity”, I didn’t know I should have. I rarely buy The Express & Star because I don’t get time to read it and I don’t receive the free sister paper The Chronicle any more, so that method is not inclusive.

He says that where homes are “deemed unsuitable” for wheelie bins, residents can still use the 6 bags per month collection scheme. He also says that where homes “opt out”, they will receive no alternative service. Does that include the unsuitable venues or is that not opting out?

I’m very interested in this claim to provide an “assisted service” for people who are physically unable to pull out the bins. How can they provide this costly exercise if they haven’t got the resources to offer alternative services to residents?

And how come when I rang Sandwell Council, none of the people I spoke to knew about the assisted service or that the special collection service was still available?

You see, these days, Sandwell operates a call centre called Customer Services, which fields calls for officers. It is then up to the officers when and if they ever return the call.

In the old days, you could get through to an officer and resolve the query. Now you can wait weeks (and I have done) for a returned call, during which time you’ve got frustrated or even irate.

With the best will in the world, these call centre people can’t answer your query and that’s really what you want, and when they do offer information, they are not always as fully informed as they need to be, as this case proves.

Councillor Hussain states that wheelie bins should be “on the edge of the property.” My bin was as safely near the edge of my property as I could get it, yet it wasn’t collected.

So far, during three ‘phone calls, I have been told my ‘catch up’ collection would take place on Saturday 21st (it wasn’t) and then Saturday 28th (it wasn’t). Apparently, now I’m a ‘priority’.

When the call centre girl was asked what was going to happen to the bags I’ve got piling up which I can’t fit into the bin, she got very flustered and couldn’t give me an answer. An officer from the department could have, but I’ve never got to speak to anyone.

And I notice that Councillor Hussain failed to address my questions about health & safety and public liability regarding pavements. I think that’s a crucial issue.

I repeat that his highly-trained operatives, as impressive as the statistic of emptying 1000 bins per day is, are still inconsistent.

For instance, why does my local chippie have to negotiate his waste wheelie bin down two steps and onto the pavement because the bin crews claim it is ‘too heavy’ for them to move?

I am pleased that the Cabinet Member has taken the time to respond to me. I just wish that I had a resolution to my problem. I also wish he had a clearer idea of what is actually going on in the neighbourhoods of Sandwell.

Perhaps the local elections will focus the collective council will to provide effective services. See, I can be optimistic!

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