Wokingham Borough Council’s Cabinet Reshuffle

Wokingham’s cabinet reshuffle has seen Cllr Angus Ross (right) take over responsibility for the controversial waste collection scheme from Cllr Gary Cowan (left).

With the “unfair” election behind him and, despite his belief that voters were mean to him, his overwhelming majority intact, Wokingham’s Tory council leader David Lee has reshuffled his top team. This is presumably a search for a little inspiration, following the last lot’s sparkling success in alienating vast chunks of the populace.

The most notable change is the jettisoning of two of the executives who were arguably the most damaged: Cllrs Gary Cowan and UllaKarin Clark.

Cllr Cowan’s performance regarding the new waste system was something of an unmitigated disaster. From day one the scheme was clearly flawed, and when those flaws became clear he alternated between joining his fellow cabinet members in the bunker, and giving disastrous interviews on BBC Radio Berkshire’s Andrew Peach show. I can’t decide which was my personal favourite moment: his 9m long bin bags, or his insistence that four different sizes of bags all across the borough were the result of a single defective batch.

This one isn’t a surprise for me. The scheme was unpopular and unsuccessful, and Gary was the council’s face of it. Losing two seats might not seem a huge setback, but it will have been a blow to David Lee’s ego. I expect Gary has taken the bulk of the blame, so his absence from the top table is no great surprise.

His replacement is Angus Ross, the former executive member for  planning (I think). I don’t honestly know much about Cllr Ross, he’s not been a particularly high profile member of the executive, so I’ll be interested to see how he performs now he’s been thrust into the spotlight.

The departure of Cllr Clark is, to me, equally unsurprising. Her brief of Internal Services included the library service, and with the announcement of who it’s being sold off to expected pretty imminently, it’s going to become a political hot potato (I say that because I’m going to make it a political hot potato).

I’m sure Cllr Clark is perfectly capable, but her defence of the library privatisation plan has been less than robust. She was the respondant to the petition against the plans, and her conduct was shambolic. She and her colleagues spent the debate chastising those who signed the petition, rather than taking the opportunity to explain, defend and persuade. And when the time came for voting on a motion, she was wholly unprepared and the executive had to write one there on the floor of the chamber.

But it’s the choice of her replacement which is the most interesting part: Hillside’s newly re-elected Cllr Pauline Jorgensen. This just might be the first piece of sound political manoeuvring I’ve seen on David Lee’s part, and an excellent choice. Cllr Jorgensen is sharp, keen and will make my job significantly harder. I know this because I’ve already had many debates and discussions with her on Twitter. I disagree with the vast majority of her policy positions, but I won’t deny that she’s very capable, and I hope she’ll raise the quality of debate in the chamber.

In other news, Cllr Keith Baker has added planning to his pre-existing highways brief, so please direct all planning permission complaints thither. Given that Cllr Baker is one of the highest profile executive members, readers might wonder at the consolidation of roles in his portfolio, but I would imagine David Lee decided that he needed someone who would be able to defend the building of 13,000 new homes by 2026.

Newcomer to the executive Cllr Alisatir Corrie takes on Matt Deegan’s brief for the regeneration, after Matt stood down in May, and Cllr Charlotte Haitham-Taylor has taken over on Children’s Services from Rob Stanton, who remains deputy leader. The cabinet in full is as follows:

Council Leader – Cllr David Lee (Norreys)

Deputy Leader – Cllr Rob Stanton (Finchampstead North)

Highways and Planning – Cllr Keith Baker (Coronation)

Finance – Cllr Anthony Pollock (Shinfield South)

Health and Wellbeing – Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner (Wescott)

Internal Services – Cllr Pauline Jorgensen (Hillside)

Regeneration and Affordable Houses – Cllr Alistair Corrie (Evendons)

Evironment – Cllr Angus Ross (Wokingham Without)

Children’s Services – Cllr Charlotte Haitham-Taylor (Shinfield South)


Wokyrubbish – Dull, but Important

The Wokingham bin bags disaster might not be as exciting as national political issues, but it's symptomatic of the problems at the heart of our local government.

I posted the below comment on a Wokingham Times story entitled “Rubbish a big issue in election campaigning“, in response to comments to the extent that the problems surrounding the new rubbish scheme were insignificant, and a silly thing to campaign on.

I’m sorry, but my experience from the doorsteps is that far from a minority, Damiano’s views [that the council’s actions show a disdain for the voting public] represent majority of public opinion.

I understand (and, to be honest, agree with) views that bin bags are a pretty dull subject, but the fact is that they are causing a lot of annoyance and inconvenience to a lot of residents. Local politics often isn’t the grand issues of its national counterpart, but rather the problems that impact people’s everyday lives. I am actually glad that this election is so focused on local matters.

Also, this isn’t simply teething troubles. The problems aren’t confined to the scheme’s execution (which has, inarguably, been woeful), but rather with the concept at its heart. The Tory claims of a council tax freeze sit ill with the stealth taxes they’re implementing. And the fact that they have done it without consultation with the public shows a dangerous aloofness.

The bins are a problem. But they are symptomatic of a bigger problem at the heart of the Conservative council administration.

Grant Shapps Fobs Wokingham Off

A couple of weeks ago, I emailed government minister Grant Shapps to ask about the Wokingham bin collection scheme. The answer that I received was less than inspirational...

This is a response to a letter I sent to Department of Communities and Local Government minister Grant Shapps MP a few weeks ago, regarding specific comments he had made, quoted in a national newspaper, about Wokingham’s new waste collection scheme.

Dear Mr Dent,

Thank you for your email of 25 March to Mr Shapps about charging for green waste. Your email has been passed to Defra as the Department responsible for this policy area and I have been asked to reply.

I am sorry you are unhappy with your council’s revised policy on green waste collections. Nevertheless the Government believes that it is for local authorities to take these decisions, working at a local level with their residents, to provide the best collection service for their area taking into account the needs and priorities of their communities. At the same time, the Government has set a clear expectation that it wants to make it easier for people to do the right thing, recycle more and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

While your council tax does include an element for the provision of a household waste collection service, there are also some recognised exceptions for which councils are entitled to levy additional fees, most notably for bulky waste, such as furniture or white goods, and garden waste. This is in recognition of the fact that these types of waste may require a different or additional collection, as well as not necessarily being required for every household. The power to charge for these items is set out in the Controlled Waste Regulations.

However, it remains the decision of the local council whether to exercise the power to charge for green waste collections, as part of their wider waste collection service. As such, if you are dissatisfied with their decision then you should discuss the matter with your local authority.

Yours sincerely,

Rosie Gridley

Defra – Customer Contact Unit

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

The astute amongst you may have noticed that this email is not from Grant Shapps. Nor is it from his secretary, his subordinate, or anyone at the same department as him. My initial query was about specific assurances he had made. If he was speaking outside of his brief then, so be it, but his comments surely cannot be the responsibility of another department?

Also, this email doesn’t answer the points I raised. I suspect it was copied and pasted in, as a more general response to rubbish-themed questions. But I highlighted a specific quotation from Grant Shapps about which I was asking specific questions. Namely, that he said he would stop such stealth taxes, and what he intended to do to stop Wokingham enforcing one.

It’s safe to say that I’m not satisfied with this response, and will be following it up.

Back to Bins. Again.

As hard as I try, I just can’t seem to get away from Wokingham’s bin bags problem. I’ve had a decent run- five days is a decent run right?- but sadly I’m back at the gates of the same subject. Believe it or not, I don’t actually want the elections in May to be all about bin bags. They are most certainly a problem, but they aren’t the only one facing the borough.

And besides, I think it’s symptomatic of the bigger problem of the council leadership being aloof and out of touch. With residents, and possibly with reality.

As bin-themed proof, I offer up this little gem of a video:

This appeared alongside a Wokingham Times online article, in which reporter Laura Herbert followed a collection truck on its route around Woodley, accompanied by a certain Mr Peter Baveystock. The article, in a rather brilliant move seemingly designed to alienate a hefty chunk of the population and readership, was titled “‘Blue bags, what’s all the fuss about?’“.

It makes for an interesting read, even if it is at odds with about 80% of public opinion, in my experience. Ms Herbert’s conclusion is surmised with the line:

From what I saw, it all seemed to run smoothly and quickly.

Which is reassuring. But that the collection process itself would be an utter cock-up hasn’t, I don’t think, been one of the objections I’ve raised. From a pragmatic point of view, the job of the binmen is largely unchanged. Although…

But back to the video. Mr Baveystock seems to have a stab at explaining why the binmen use wheelie bins although residents are not allowed to. He puts forward a health and safety argument, based around the binmen having to lift bags out of residents’ wheelie bins. Which is nothing short of mental- lifting bags out of a wheelie bin, to put them into a wheelie bin? Why?

I’ve heard the aesthetic-based arguments against wheelie bins (and incidentally disagree with them- I think they are a lot tidier than a pile of rubbish bags), and I know that they aren’t practical everywhere. But I don’t see the problem with residents being given a choice.

And I’m not sure what bin Mr Baveystock is putting that bag into at the end. The blue bags- even the properly sized ones wouldn’t fit into my 80L bin. Maybe he’s using the Gary Cowan signature size bags instead?

Wokingham Bin Bags Reach the Maidenhead Advertiser

Pictured above is a double-page spread from this week’s Twyford Advertiser, placed by Wokingham Borough Council regarding the new waste collection scheme. I say the Twyford Advertiser, but I know for a fact that it appeared in the Maidenhead Advertiser, and I can only presume that it was in the rest of the Advertiser series newspapers too.

I’m a little torn about the concept here. On the one hand, I have been consistently complaining that communication of the new scheme has been utterly inadequate, with most residents only learning of it when blue bags appeared on their doorsteps. So from that point of view, it’s good that the council are finally making a message.

But on the other hand, it’s a bit late isn’t it? The scheme started (less than brilliantly) on Monday. After this chaotic week, I’m pretty sure most people now know about the scheme, even if it’s only through finding that they’ve missed their changed collection day. The first page of the ad takes the form of a letter from interim Chief Executive Andy Couldrick (it seems responsibility is slowly climbing the ladder- but still through council officers, not councillors themselves who seem still to be bunker-bound). In it, he acknowledges there have been problems:

I am aware that the change in arrangements for collecting waste has not gone as well as it could have. Veolia environmental Services, who are operating the new scheme, and we at the Council, are aware tat this may have caused some confusion and inconvenience. I am sorry about this, and you have our assurance that we will continue to work hard to iron out all of the problems and make sure that the scheme works as successfully here as it does in other places.

Which is interesting. Aside from the fact that “some confusion and inconvenience” feels like understatement, this is a welcome rowback from Peter Baveystock declaring success earlier on- a moment which felt similar to George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” declaration.

But. Shouldn’t the ironing out have been done prior to implementing a wide-ranging and radical scheme. I find it hard to believe that this could have been devised without any thought of the impact, but it’s increasingly looking that way. Also, he claims that other councils have similar schemes. Which is true enough; but there are only three others, and they are all very controversial.

The second page is an FAQ sort of arrangement, presumably designed to do some of the informing that they failed to do before it started. I notice that the question (and their answer) about why they didn’t hold a consultation. But as an informative piece, it’s good enough. Though I still don’t know why they’ve changed all of the collection days around, if they aren’t trying to cause confusion and disaffection.

Finally, I’m wondering at the cost of this little PR venture. Most of it seems to be given over to flash shouting about the “good” points of the scheme in an effort to distract from the bad points, in usual Wokingham style (see the budget, and shouting about council tax freezes to distract from other shambles like this). If there was less of that, and Mr Couldrick’s letter a little less spin and a little more frank apology, then the whole thing could fit onto one page.

And whilst this may be of unparalleled interest to us in Wokingham, I sincerely doubt that the rest of Berkshire care. This notice could have been targeted towards the Twyford Advertiser exclusively, saving money and still reaching the areas of the borough that the Advertiser series cover.

Matthew S. Dent for Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe

Matthew S. Dent, Labour and Co-Op candidate for Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe

With nominations closed, all of the forms in, and the full list of candidates to be officially announced next week, I think this is as good a time as any to make my own announcement: I am standing on May 3rd as the Labour and Co-operative candidate for Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe.

This has been something of a given for a long while now, but my nomination forms went in last Wednesday without hiccough, and so pending Tuesday’s announcement everything will be official.

Over the next few weeks, I will be putting leaflets through letterboxes, and talking to people all across the ward about the issues they are concerned about, and what I can offer them if elected. The advantage of being involved in local politics all year round, not only at election time, is that I’m already familiar with most of the issues.

On a national level, the economy is still in the doldrums and the Conservative-led economic strategy seems only to be making things worse. There is a real risk that we will shortly be back in recession- officially; many households will testify that the struggles they face day to day already speak of recession- and what are the government focusing on? Taxing pasties; taxing pensioners; snooping in our emails; shutting down transparency; cutting tax for millionaires; ending child tax credits for ordinary working families and a whole load of other unhelpful and regressive measures.

One thing is becoming very clear- we are not all in this together.

But this is a local election, and whilst the national picture cannot be discounted or ignored I want residents to cast their votes based on local issues. So here is an overview of some of the issues I will be campaigning on:

  • Bin collection: the new scheme has proved disastrous. The scheme is a stealth tax on residents, and even central government has serious concerns that the council have no legal basis for doing this. Residents are in uproar, and the councillors who implemented this scheme are nowhere to be seen. My view on this is simple. We are calling for three things: firstly, the scheme should be suspended immediately; secondly, there should be an inquiry into what has gone wrong with the scheme, particularly the problems besetting the launch; thirdly, the consultation with residents that the council didn’t think was necessary should be conducted, and no new scheme introduced without public approval.
  • Libraries: the plan to privatise libraries across the borough was central to my campaign in the July by-election, and since then it has dropped off the agenda a little. I am not happy about this; the council dismissed residents concerns when a petition triggered a debate, and have done nothing to mitigate the damage that I believe this plan will cause. Privatising libraries will lead to corners being cut in the pursuit of profit, and our currently great libraries will be at risk of decline. The decision is due to be made in May, so this is a vital issue on the doorsteps.
  • Real democracy: At the moment, the Conservative elite who rule Wokingham seem completely disconnected from residents. Time and again, they do exactly what they want with concern neither for the views of voters or whether it is a good idea. There is little to no debate, and a sense of aloof disdain for disagreement. They have even admitted that they don’t think they need to listen to residents. I believe that the way to solve this is by putting different voices, of different parties, on the council. If elected I will make holding the council to account my primary business, and pushing for better policies for the borough.

I will be expanding on and adding to these points as the election grows closer, and as I receive more feedback from residents on the doorstep. If you live in the ward and want to get in touch with me, I welcome any and all contact, and you can do so by:

Or simply wait until I knock on your door.

Tory Ex-Mayor Brands Wokingham Bin Scheme “a shambles”

Former Tory mayor of Wokingham Without parish council has branded the borough's new bin collection scheme "a shambles".

Most of the ctiticism of the new bin collection scheme in Wokingham seems by the council and by Conservative councillors to have been dismissed under a variety of headings. It’s to be expected. Nobody likes change. It’s down to misinformation by the press/opposition. Or my personal favourite, in reference to my own criticism and Labour Party membership/candidacy, “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”.

But whilst the council have so far been able to shrug off the criticisms of residents by characterising them as not representative (we’ll see if May 3rd’s elections change that view), they may find some of the newer criticisms a little harder to ignore.

The Wokingham Times website this morning features an article collating complaints about the new scheme, under which residents are limited to 80 bags per year and have to pay the council over the odds for extras if needed. The complaint that stands out the most for me comes from a Mr Brian Willis, the former Conservative mayor of Wokingham Without parish council. I’ll quote here what he told the Times:

What a shambles Wokingham Borough Council is in over the new blue bag and green waste collections. I tried to contact Wokingham Borough Council on a totally unrelated matter which was to pay garage rent, but the online system would not accept my input data. I then tried to contact the relevant department – all lines busy or if you get through you are number 24 on the list. After three attempts so I give up and then resorted to a fax, but still no-one replies. Why the council did not set up a temporary line to deal with all waste queries and leave the main number for everyday problems I do not know, but it seems that everything that our council does is ill thought out and finishes up a total disaster.

That would be pretty damning from a resident, I think. From a former Tory councillor, it’s disasterous. And it echoes some of the self-same criticisms I have raised time and again: that the whole scheme is in disarray, and was not properly thought out from the start, and that their communication is not up to scratch.

Maybe the council will listen to this a bit more readily when it comes from one of their own, but given their arrogant attitude so far I doubt it. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Red Ken’s book, and get this printed on a banner to hang opposite the civic offices at Shute End.

Seven Years Bad Luck

Without any consultation, Wokingham residents have been locked into a seven-year waste scheme which is already falling apart.

The new bin collection scheme in Wokingham started on Monday, to a less-than-triumphant reception for residents. Even the Wokingham Times lead story this morning brands it a “catastrophic failure

It’s not going well. So you might ask what can be done about it? Well, there are local elections coming up, which give a chance for residents to vent their frustration at the Conservatives, and maybe persuade them to change their mind. Unfortunately, due to the level of entrenchment with the Tory majority in Wokingham, the council cannot be wrested from their control until 2014, under the standard electoral schedule (obviously deaths, resignations or defections could change this).

Sadly, even that may not end this scheme. A correspondent of this blog who wishes to remain anonymous (incidentally, if anyone wants to contact me with information, I will always respect any requests to remain nameless) has been doing some investigating of their own, and has uncovered details of the contract. From what they have discovered, the contract with Veolia for this new waste system is seven years long. SEVEN YEARS! With no break clauses.

So, whilst by 2014 it is feasible that the council will be under control of a different party, they will be stuck to this scheme until 2019- unless Veolia fail on the terms of the contract, and even that would probably have to be expensively fought. There is, however, the option to extend it another seven years to 2026. Joy. It seems to me like madness to take on such wide-ranging change without any consultation.

The contract apparently saves the council £0.3m per year. Maybe I’ve spent too long reading local government documents, but £300,000 doesn’t seem like a lot compared the chaos this scheme is causing. And then there’s the increase in fly-tipping which the council doesn’t think will happen, but almost everyone else accepts as inevitable. How much will dealing with that eat into the savings, I wonder?

In other related news, I had a rather nice chat with someone at DEFRA about the new waste scheme. This revealed a couple of things. Firstly, I’m not the only person who has been contacting them about this. Secondly, they have been referring people to the joint letter from them and the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to councils regarding such schemes as Wokingham’s. I’ve been quoting said letter a lot, but I’d like to highlight this part in particular:

You may require that the receptacle meets reasonable specifications, such as being compatible with your collection vehicles, but if you require householders to purchase their own receptacle, whether for all or part of their waste services, you should refrain from creating a monopoly. You may not require the householder to purchase the receptacle from a single supplier. For example, if householders are required to present waste in black sacks, they should be able to choose where to buy their sacks, rather than being restricted to ‘official’ ones which are only available from the Council.

That sounds mighty familiar, doesn’t it?

And to top it off, the council have been threatening to use sinister-sounding “section 46 notices” against people who don’t comply with the scheme:

A section 46 notice is apparently a real thing, and is part of a criminal law process which can result in a fine of up to £1,000. A fine for refusing to comply with something that two government departments don’t believe the council can legally do. You couldn’t make this up!

(Also, it’s especially sinister given stories that have reached me of council employees threatening such measures to people merely asking about the legal issues)

Finally, I was asked by Cllr Pauline Jorgensen (CON – Hillside) on Twitter yesterday what my (the local Labour Party’s) policy for waste collection would be. Policy discussions in 140 characters are a pain in the posterior and as a general rule inadvisable, but for your information:

To which the good councillor even responded with agreement!

WBC: “We don’t have to listen to you”

Readers must be getting sick of me ranting on about bin bags, but as long as it’s still an issue, and as long as it’s emblematic of Wokingham Borough Council’s utter disdain for the opinions of local residents, I’m going to keep pushing it.

I’ve been saying this for a long time, but the council’s (Conservative) administration simply does not care what the people living in the borough think of what it’s doing. I get that there are probably a lot of people who would paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies in response to that: “Well, he’s a Labour candidate; he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Indeed, that has actually been said of me. But the thing is, my accusations are borne out by the council’s actions. Look at the library privatisation fiasco. The announcement of the plan was made last May, just after the elections- yet it had gone unmentioned in election literature, and there was no consultation. When residents signed a petition objecting to the move, the council quite simply didn’t care.

Now the same thing is happening with the bins. The new scheme is widely hated, people feel the council are taking them for a ride, and there has been no consulting of the electorate. Yesterday the council (by which, I should make clear, I mean local government officers- not the politicians who actually make the decisions) conducted a Q&A session where residents could submit questions about the scheme.

They didn’t handle it badly, but the answers weren’t particularly revealing. The general sense of things was “this is the scheme, deal with it”. But there was one answer which I found astounding:

Read that carefully. They “didn’t feel it necessary to consult on the services”. That basically translates as “we don’t think we need to listen to what you think”. I believe I called that a long, long time ago.

The reason that people are so angry, for the benefit of any council staff or Wokingham Tories who might be reading this, is that you have imposed a flawed and unsuitable waste scheme on them for questionable reasons without once asking their permission. That is not how democracy is supposed to work.

So here it is. I alluded above to the fact that I am the Labour candidate for the ward of Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe in the local elections on May 3rd. I am pledging here, in writing, preserved for all to see, that if elected I will oppose this scheme with all the passion that I have shown so far. I will push, as I have been calling for, for:

  1. An immediate suspension of the scheme.
  2. An inquiry into the execution problems that have thus far dogged it.
  3. A public consultation on the future of waste collection in the borough.

But more than that, I pledge that I will fight with the same tenacity against the aloof, rule-by-elite attitude which has taken hold. No more radical changes to services without consultation. No more ignoring or dismissing residents opinions and concern. And no more democratic failures from elected representatives.

I know that, even if elected, I won’t be able to dictate local government policy. Even if Labour take a clean sweep of all the seats up for election, it would only give us 18 seats (out of 54). But what a victory for me (or any of my fellow Labour candidates, for that matter) would do, is make the Tories stop and think. Their disdain for residents stems from a belief that they are safe. That they will suffer no electoral consequences no matter their decision.

It is only by challenging this belief, and the Tory hegemony that they enjoy in Wokingham, that residents can reassert their democratic right to be heard.

Cllr Cowan Speaks Up (Part Two)

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):

The four (so far) identified versions of the Wokingham bin bag.

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.

The council's letter to recipients of the wrong bags.

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.