Call for review of Ribble Valley's weekly bin collections to save money

Refuse collectors emptying bins
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)

The future of weekly bin collections in the Ribble Valley sparked debate as councillors discussed a government order for all councils to write productivity plans within the next few weeks for potential efficiencies or changes.

Despite the general election campaign, councils have been told to send productivity plans to the government's department for levelling-up and government minister Simon Hoare MP by mid-July.

The government has asked about all areas of council activity including delivering public services, work by staff and outside consultants, ways to measure productivity and tackle 'waste and barriers to progresss'. A section on waste in the government letter includes EDI activity - equality, diversity and inclusion.

This week at Ribble Valley Council's Policy & Finance Committee, a Green councillor, Malcolm Peplow, suggested no areas of current council policy, such as weekly bin collections, should be out-of-bounds in the review. But he also claimed the government productivity push threatens equal opportunities.

It came after council officer Jane Pearson outlined the productivity plan. She said: "All councils have to submit plans. The government says these should be succinct, two or three pages, Despite the general election, we have been told the July 19 deadline still applies. Government questions need to be answered.

"I have suggested some areas to consider. These are the five-year capital programme including invest-to-save schemes, computer IT systems, in-house services and shared services, capacity, governance structures used to ensure accountability of spending, and barriers preventing us from improving productivity."

Councillors on the committee were recommended to allow top officers in consultation councillors on the Budget Working Group to submit a plan.

But Green Coun Malcolm Peplow said: "I am looking for absolute assurances that we don't have any policies that are sacred cows? I'm thinking of weekly bin collections. If we are looking for savings to services or administration then surely everything has to be in-scope and open to debate?"

But Conservative Coun Stephen Atkinson, the council leader, replied: "From the Conservative group's perspective, we will not be moving away from weekly bin collections. It's what we promised and it's important that we stick to it. "

He felt strongly about the issue and referred to a recent poll suggesting public trust in politics was at it lowest-ever rating.

Then Coun Peplow added: "The government also talks about equal opportunities. But, as far as I'm concerned, equal opportunities and fairness should be at the centre of all council work. The government should not be able to throw that into the bin."

Coun Atkinson replied: "I won't speak for any government."

'Staff recruitment difficulties'

In other comments, Conservative Coun Susan Bibby said council capacity, staff training and recruitment were issues that successive governments had failed to address.

She said: "Governments have not addressed training people to match the UK jobs market. We cannot easily recruit in areas such as environmental health and planning. We've gone out eight times looking for senior planners. The same for environmental health staff.

"We need staff for planning and things like food safety, which is about preventative public health work. We have covered these areas but it has been difficult. I would like that to be said in our report."

Conservative Coun Stuart Hirst added: "These requests are annoying. It's another example in the long line of government interference which has gone on for years. It's teaching us to suck eggs. I wonder if government minister Simon Hoare would like to talk about the productivity of his government department?"

Conservative Mark Hindle said: "The report contains some serious ideas about sharing some services with other councils. I think we should have careful talks about things like that."

Independent Jim Rogerson said Ribble Valley Council's committee structure was important because it enabled input from councillors across the political spectrum.

Councillors agreed to allow top officers and the Budget Working Group to produce the productivity plan.