MISSED rubbish and recycling collections have hit a new high since January.
Numbers obtained by The Argus show there were 631 reports of missed rubbish collections in Brighton and Hove in July – almost double the previous month.
Recycling has not fared much better, with 425 missed collections in July, an increase of a quarter compared to June.
The figures cover kerbside collections at individual properties and do not include communal bins.
Problems with missed collections are not new in Brighton and Hove – the city’s bin collections have been fraught with problems over the past two years, from strike action through to vehicle breakdowns.
The council makes 80,000 kerbside refuse collections and more than 40,000 kerbside recycling collections a week.
Strikes in June 2013 saw rubbish spilling across city streets for two weeks as Cityclean, Brighton and Hove City Council’s street cleaning operation, became embroiled in a dispute over pay conditions.
It took until mid-July last year for collections to catch up.
Last November, the council decided to implement new round changes, and admitted in a presentation that it meant crews had to work longer hours for less pay than under the previous arrangements.
Staff responded with work-to-rule action, which saw rounds missed and bins pile up.
A report seen by The Argus show 707 missed refuse collections last November, plus 745 missed recycling collections.
By January this year, as new rounds were bedding in, numbers rose to 955 for rubbish and slightly dropped to 686 for recycling.
The figures hit a plateau during April, May and June but new details for July show a new high since January.
The figures for missed collections appear comparatively low – July’s represent just 0.2% of rubbish collections and 0.27% of total recycling collections – but during past disputes the council stopped recording missed collections reported by residents.
A council spokeswoman told The Argus there is no accurate data for the number of missed collections for the 2013/14 financial year.
She said: “During the negotiations on pay, the industrial action and the round reorganisation, which all took place in 2013/14, there was service disruption resulting in an increase in the number of refuse and recycling collections missed.
“Not all residents were able to get through to report their missed collections and during the strike there weren’t any collections across the whole city.”
At a council policy and resources meeting on July 11 this year, an officer even went so far as to say that “if a whole street or area was missed, we didn’t record all individual properties because we had such high call volume”.
The officer added: “Because of the scale of the disruption we knew there were areas that were missed. The priority at the time was to get those areas collected.”
The council said data for this financial year is now being recorded accurately. The reported missed refuse collections during the disputes and round changes are not an accurate reflection of the level of disruption.
The past 18 months of bin woes will not do the Green Party any favours in the lead up to next year’s elections.
Conservative leader Geoffrey Theobald was cabinet member for environment in the Tory-run administration, ousted by the Green Party in 2010.
He said: “There is no doubt about it: the whole thing has failed.
“I was criticised about Conservative recycling levels but they were a lot higher than they are now. I think people have got frustrated with collections not arriving. The council needs to get back to the basics.
“One of my criticisms of the Green leadership is there is no actual leadership.
“They are responsible for the services. This is what you get elected for.
“This is exactly the sort of issue which requires strong and visible political leadership – not abdication of responsibility.
“The refuse and recycling service has been pretty dreadful over the last few years with strikes, frequent missed collections, constant vehicle breakdowns, unacceptably low recycling rates and filthy streets caused by an apparent official tolerance of fly tipping around our old, battered and graffiti ridden communal bins.
“This not only affects our residents but also gives a terrible impression to the millions of tourists whose custom the city relies upon.”
Warren Morgan, leader of the Labour and Co-operative Group, said: “Despite the best efforts of Cityclean staff, we don’t believe the Greens have made collecting refuse and keeping the streets clean enough of a priority.
“The Green Party cannot wash its hands of responsibility for the mess on our streets and the missed collections since they came to power. It is not the fault of staff and they cannot shirk responsibility by saying it is an operational matter and nothing to do with them.
“They have made ‘One Planet Living’, the i360 and 20mph limits political priorities but not refuse collection.
“Council staff deliver the service but it is up to the politicians to make things like this happen.”
His Labour colleague, Councillor Gill Mitchell, said: “The communal recycling service is not working, especially in relation to glass, and people are getting disheartened and giving up.
“If people are to be encouraged to recycle then the service has to operate smoothly and the receptacles provided need to be easily accessible otherwise people simply won’t bother.”
Green councillor Lizzie Deane, deputy chairwoman of the environment transport and sustainability committee, said: “There’s no question that it’s been a difficult few months, with a range of issues affecting waste collections, such as vehicle breakdowns and parked cars causing obstructions in narrow streets.
“However new vehicles will be arriving in the autumn to replace the outdated ones and we are working to improve access to streets that have had historic problems.
“Once these are resolved, we hope to provide a more regular service and residents will see a difference.”
A council spokeswoman said: “During periods of disruption and following Christmas and New Year, significant parts of the city did not have refuse or recycling collections.
"In these instances individual missed collections were not recorded which contributed to the data for the last financial year not being accurate.
“We experienced high levels of customer contact and residents were not always able to get through to us to report missed collections.
“The increase in the number of missed bins in July was due to limited vehicle availability on a number of days.”
The council said the number of breakdowns and vehicle faults changes but “they are all brought back into service as quickly as possible”.
It said it is continuing to replace its fleet and will have nine new collection vehicles by November. The spokeswoman added: “We are constantly striving to improve the service.”
A RECENT HISTORY
February 2013 – snow
March 2013 – snow and a communal recycling consultation
May 2013 – work-to-rule action over payment
June 2013 – ten-day strike from June 14 to 24
July 2013 – collection catch up runs to middle of month
November 2013 – work-to-rule action over new rounds
January 2014 – “bedding in” of new round
July 2014 – national strike action with no work-ahead
NEWS FROM THE STREET
Roy Prater, 79, lives in Vallance Gardens, Hove, where he said there has not been a recycling collection for four weeks.
He said: “It has got worse recently. The stuff just piles up. The Greens seem to have spent all their money without spending it on the things that really matter. I don’t feel very pleased with them.”
He lives with his wife, Sheila, 79, who has to take their recycling boxes out because Mr Prater has walking problems.
She said: “They are not terribly reliable. Ever since the Greens got in it has been a nightmare with the rubbish. You take the trouble to sort out your rubbish and they don’t bother to collect it.”
Mrs Prater said the situation was the same in Vallance Road, at the end of her street.
Paul Beckett, 42, of Upper Hollingdean Road, said his street went for more than six weeks without a recycling collection until July 30.
He said it was a “completely unreasonable time to have to wait for recycling to be collected”.
He said: “Passers-by see the stored recycling waste as a general bin for their non-recyclable rubbish, which they're mixing in with it. The general mess is also upsetting as it lowers the tone of the area. We have young children and it angers me.”
James Wallin, a resident of Hanover in Brighton, said he sees uncollected rubbish and recycling regularly.
He said: “Despite annually grasping for ever more tax, the council has allowed our streets to become litter-strewn eyesores as bins and recycling boxes regularly lie uncollected for days.
“It seems that almost every other collection is delayed. This has been going on for far too long now.
“Teething problems when routes change are to be expected but this perpetual failure to provide the most basic of council services is completely unacceptable and something must be done about it.
“For this to happen under a so-called Green administration is laughable. It needs to make amends or face being dumped at the next election.”
A resident of The Ambassadors, a block of flats in Wilbury Road, Hove, said rubbish had been piling up at her block on and off for about two years.