As I said in my blog post last week, in what might have been intended as a robust media counter-attack, Cllr Gary Cowan took to the airwaves on BBC Radio Berkshire’s Andrew Peach show to answer residents concerns and defend the new bin bags scheme. Gary had previously been on the same show attempting a similar defence, and it didn’t go terribly well.
The new issue last Thursday was the varying sizes of bin bags. As I’ve already reported, there are apparently multiple sizes of blue bin bag being distributed around the borough, and my own experiment demonstrates that even the “full-sized” bags may not be the 80L that the council claims (I maintain that my experiment was absolutely not definitive, but merely a cause for greater concern).
Sadly Gary’s performance was not an improvement at all, and one presumes that following it he will be relegated to whatever cupboard council leader David Lee locked him away in after his first appearance. Throughout the interview he seemed uncomfortable and ill-informed, at one point spouting this gem:
“I can’t remember the exact measurements, but I can get them. It’s very roughly 900 centimetres from the base to where the curvature for the ties for the handles are.“
900cm. That’s 9m. Some people contacting Andrew said that was the length of a body bag, not a bin bag. Personally, I don’t know many people who are 9m tall, but the point is clear. Cllr Cowan of course meant 900mm (90cm), but it just demonstrates how poor a grasp he has on this scheme, for which he is supposed to be responsible. Later, explaining why there were multiple sizes at all, Cllr Cowan said this:
“The problem was that the machine cutting one particular batch of them cut the tie end wrong, which meant that it was too deep and therefore if the measurement on the bottom was wrong it would mean that the width at the top was wrong.“
Which is interesting. It’s utter gibberish, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The gist of it, I think, is that it was a manufacturing error on a single batch. Which would explain why there were two sizes. If there were two sizes. This picture, however, complicates matters a little (hat tip to Cllr Prue Bray):
I’ll let readers make up their own minds, but that looks to me like four different “versions” of the bag. Which would mean that there were four different manufacturing errors- safely elevating this from “minor mishap” to “full-scale cock up”. Like the rest of the scheme then. I’d also point out that these bags seem to be made from completely different materials.
The council, aware of the problem, are apparently going to be giving residents with undersized bags extras to make up the shortfall. But this quote in The Wokingham Times, from Mr Pete Baveystock (the local government officer in charge of waste and recycling) was interesting:
“If the small bags are 10 per cent smaller, we will issue extra bags to make up that shortfall.“
If they are 10% smaller? That sounds like a prelude to a cop-out. What if they are 5% smaller? Or 9% smaller? Given that the 80 bag allowance is likely not enough for families as it stands, every percentage point matters. I’ve previously been quite kind to Mr Baveystock on the grounds that he is simply trying to make the best of a bad political decision- but this and other whispers that have reached my ears suggest he is blessed with the same brand of incompetence that has previously been Cllr Cowan’s domain,
I’ve also been sent this, which is a picture of the letter being sent out by the council to residents who have or may have received the smaller bags (thanks to @Closealdo). I included as an interesting piece of information, and to try and keep as much of this in the public eye as possible. And no, I haven’t encountered Mr Jason Jones before in all of this either.
This just goes from bad to worse from the council. An unpopular scheme, ill-conceived and very poorly executed. I finish by saying that which I have said before: this is simply not acceptable. What is required is nothing short of a suspension of the scheme whilst a review takes place, and local residents are consulted. I call upon the council leadership to do the right thing.