Collection reports were rubbish

I HAVE read plenty of press coverage over the last few weeks about how some people haven't had their bins collected for six weeks.

The reports claim and about how some councils supposedly have not been that bothered about getting out and emptying bins and just using the bad weather as an excuse rather than a reason for not fulfilling their duties.

What most of the press don't report though is that there were actually very few areas that had problems with their bin collections and of those few that did it was isolated areas within council boundaries that had been hit particularly hard by the snow, rather than whole council areas that had been neglected.

There are large sections of the national media that see council bashing as an easy way to sell papers or get more listeners and more often than not they will shape a story to make it look like all councils act in the same way and should be hung out to dry.

This pretty much follows the same line that the current government are taking against local authorities as they try to justify slashing the funding by making out that councils are huge, inefficient organisations, ran by a load of fat cats, who do nothing but count their pensions all day.

That will be the subject of a column for a different day. For the moment, I want to concentrate on the bin collection services over the Christmas period and in particular, the perception that the government is trying to create as opposed to the actual reality of what happened in Hartlepool.

I heard Bob Neill, Minister for Communities and Local Government, on the radio because of stories that some people had not had their bins collected for some time and asked what he was going to do about it.

The fact is there is nothing he could have done about it as it was force of nature that had been the problem, not the councils.

Unfortunately, the minister took the opportunity to lay the blame at the door of the councils, in particularly a Labour-led council, and said he was going to carry out a set of reviews into the situation.

He then wrote to all council leaders the following day saying that rotting rubbish was piling high on our streets and councils are telling the public that "this is not a major problem" and failing to address the issues that are concerning the public.

I'm sure you can imagine the initial reaction the letter got from me and everyone within the department concerned.

I'm certain that the letter was met with similar derision at every other Council in the country regardless of the political leadership.

The letter underlined exactly the biggest problem that I see with this new government in that they completely over-react to an isolated incident somewhere in the country and automatically assume it is exactly the same everywhere else.

This way of working is evident in virtually every government department at the present time.

In this case, there is very little the government can do about councils' bin collection policies but there will be many other cases where changes are brought in which are a knee jerk response, badly thought through and will only cause to make the overall situation much worse. The radical changes to the health services could easily be a case in point.

If the minister had taken a little time to have a look around the rest of the country, he will have found that actually the bin collection services were all working pretty well and in Hartlepool the service was exceptional.

I'd like to put on record my sincere thanks to all of our teams who managed to carry business as normal despite the weather.

In fact, the service was so good, that I actually missed getting my bin collected over Christmas because I assumed that it would be a day or two late due to the bank holidays.

This was not the case so an unplanned trip to the household waste recycling centre was called for. That'll teach me read my information more carefully in future.

I'd also like to thank everyone who took time to give praise to the bin collection service over the Christmas period.

The customer service centre was inundated with messages from the public and from businesses thanking the Council for the excellent service and to pass on their gratitude to the lads and lasses who have put in the graft.

Bizarrely, it was probably the negative national press coverage that prompted so many people to write in.

But your comments really are appreciated by me and, more importantly, by the guys who work so hard to collect your bins.