As the letters page of the Wokingham Times fills with criticism, and the council holds its silence, the scandal shows no signs of blowing over.
We are now at two weeks since Wokingham Borough Council’s new waste collection started to roll out across the borough. As blue bags and explanatory notes reached residents, the true meaning of the new scheme sank in. And they weren’t amused.
On Monday I blogged about how the council had issued no response to residents’ concerns, or to my accusations of illegality. Rebuttal was left to non-political local government officers, and even as The Wokingham Times picked up my line about it being a stealth tax, none of the council executive members mounted a response. Even the usually vocal Cllr Keith Baker has been conspicuous by his absence from the comment threads.
I knew that the letters page of this week’s Times would be dominated by it. I half wondered if it would be there that the council issued it’s response. But no. None of the letters about bins were signed by “Cllr” anybody. So I can’t issue a response to a council statement, because one hasn’t been made. What I can do, however, is give you a flavour of the letters sent in.
I’ll start with Mrs N Hamilton, who I strongly suspect is @NikiH7. She too requested a breakdown of the cost, and comments on the enormous overheads included in the fee:
“If you purchase several rolls at a time whilst there is only one cost to the council we are still charged as of each roll were delivered separately. Either the council or Veolia will profit if people do this. When I suggested that surely we could purchase from the council offices and not be charged for delivery, I was informed that this is not possible as they can’t monitor the distribution of bags to ensure they are not used for commercial waste but Veolia can.”
If you’re wondering what precisely Veolia can do to monitor usage that the council can’t, you’re not the only one.
Next we have Mrs AW, from Charvil:
“I today received my new blue bags for my rubbish. They are 3/4 the size of normal black rubbish bags, and two have broken simply trying to get them off the roll…It is not sufficient for a family of two. Imagine a family with two or three small children- they will use their allocation in a month or two.”
She finishes, tellingly, by saying:
“I am a taxpayer, I am paying the salaries of council officials who have not consulted me or any other taxpayer I know in WBC about how to solve the waste problem – instead diktats from the lofty council officials we cannot speak to because we now have Wokingham Direct. Value for money from WBC? I think not.”
Karen Barnard says:
“…the bags are smaller and thinner than black plastic bags bought from the supermarket, so they can’t be filled as much and are likely split very easily, meaning that the rubbish may need to be double bagged. WBC may claim that they haven’t increased the council tax, but I beg to disagree… I feat that many people will take to dumping their rubbish in a ditch. But I suppose the old saying is true after all – where there’s much, there’s brass. Its certainly true for WBC and the company contracted to collect the rubbish.”
Oddly (or perhaps not, since he’s listed as UKIP candidate for Norreys ward), Keith Knight reckons it’s all the EU’s fault:
“The main reason being is that landfill in the UK and Naples, along with the rest of the EU comes under the EU Landfill directive. All countries across the EU are expected to comply…no matter who is running our council, our council has no choice but to cut down on the amount of waste going to landfill or face EU fines.”
Which I don’t buy. If it’s purely the fault of the evil EU, then why aren’t other councils burdened with such ridiculous waste schemes? Cutting down on landfill is, I feel, a noble aim. The problem is this isn’t the way to do it. Rather than using charges to stealth tax residents, the council should aim to expand the range of materials that they recycle.
June Wilson agrees with me about the stealth tax:
“How dare the council say that there is a council tax freeze… As someone who pays £107 per month council tax, when I learned that the £60 for the wheelie bin is not a one-off payment but an annual fee I was outraged. This is 56 percent increase in the council tax of those who have an environmental conscience.”
I’ll finish with this from John Barnard, in Lower Earley. It did rather tickle me, and it sums up how I (and, it seems, many others) feel about the council and this policy:
“‘Yippee,’ said Noddy. ‘If we give everybody small flimsy rubbish bags, not only will everybody throw away a lot less rubbish, but most of the bags will break before they reach the lorry, so we only need one lorry instead of two.’
“‘D’oh!’ said Homer, ‘but where will all the real rubbish go?’
“‘It will be taken away by the fairies,’ said Noddy, with undisguised glee.”