cllr mckay

Cllr McKay’s response to our open letter…

Thank you for your letter of 28th February.

I absolutely agree that the views of residents need to be taken into account when decisions are made over how the wheelie bin scheme will operate.  As you may know, we have now started a City-wide consultation with residents around the best way to roll out the wheelie bin scheme.  This will involve an open-access online questionnaire with paper copies available in libraries and neighbourhood offices, and consultation with specific groups, such as tenants, conservation areas, and disability organisations. The survey can be found here: www.opinionresearch.co.uk/birminghamwheeliebins

Based on experience in other local authorities, we estimate that 90-95% of households will be able to use wheelie bins.  The consultation process will help us to understand where exceptions need to be made.  We have already said that the sort of exceptions that we would need to think about include: major problems with rear access; and where the physical features of the homes make such bins impractical.  Also, we will be continuing with assisted collections where people are unable to manage their bins. The results of the consultation will give us much better understanding of these issues, but the central message to send out is that we are very aware that one size does not fit all.

The City-wide consultation will let us shape our policies for the roll-out.  However, this will need to be translated to the household level, prior to roll-out, in every neighbourhood in the City.  That is why we will assess the suitability of every property prior to roll-out, and then write to every householder, opening up the opportunity for a further conversation around suitability.  This will happen before bins are delivered to households.

With respect to the proposed charges for green waste collection, this needs to be set in the context of the scale of the budget cuts the City is facing.  We were forced to cut more than £100m from the budget last month, with hundreds of millions more to come in future years.  If Birmingham only faced the same reductions per head of population as everywhere else, with the pain equally shared across the country, the cuts to services would be far less severe.  But the Government has not chosen to apply this logic, and the people of Birmingham will see their services heavily impacted as a result.

What that inevitably means is that many services in Birmingham will have to either be completely transformed, or stopped altogether.  The garden waste collection service began in 2001 in Birmingham, and was fully rolled out by 2007. However, we can no longer afford to run the service as it currently stands.  At the moment it operates at a large subsidy, and the changes we are introducing will move it towards a cost-recovery basis.  But I do of course totally agree with the general point, these cuts will have consequences, and that is what we are saying again and again to Government.

With all best wishes,

Cllr James McKay
Harborne ward
Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City

Open letter to Cllr James McKay

Dear Cllr McKay,

I am writing to you in my role as Campaigns Co-ordinator for the Hall Green BLP to seek some reassurances and also pass on some concerns that have been raised by some of our party members and residents within the Hall Green Ward.

We are of course aware that as a result of winning government funding, Birmingham Council will be moving towards the introduction of wheelie bins over the next two years. We are also aware that the consultation has begun and will continue for some time, but that a preliminary report will be compiled in two weeks time based on the initial responses.

Although we realise this move to a wheeled bin service will prove beneficial in that it will protect weekly collections and provide funding to upgrade the fleet, we are concerned that the views of all residents are taken into account before decisions are finalised of how such a scheme will operate.

We are therefore seeking assurances from you that serious consideration will be given to potential issues that may arise in respect of problems related to rear access, or where the physical features of the homes make wheelie bins impractical. This will need to be done on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis, and in cases where problems are identified, we are asking that the council does not impose wheelie bins on residents who cannot manage them and seeks other ways of supporting residents where such problems might arise such as through the use of assisted collections.

We are aware that the newly adopted Council Budget includes proposals for the introduction of an annual service charge of £35 for green waste recycling from February/March 2014. Residents will be required to ‘opt in’ to this service and will be provided with a 240-litre wheeled bin.

Some of our concerns regarding this are similar to those outlined above in relation to the management of such a bin which will require similar reassurances.

We are concerned that many who live in Hall Green, whose glories are their gardens and the trees that are on the public spaces, also have to clean up leaves that block sewers and cause potential problems for pedestrians. It is alas, a fact, that council sweeping is being cut.  These civic minded individuals are doing a public service to their community and should not be penalised for the trees planted many years ago.

It is of concern that many of these services are Internet only facilities and many people in this ward (amongst them keen gardeners and supporters of the environment) do not use the Internet and would never ever dream of posting their personal details on a website. They are concerned and worried and we request that you please examine methods to allay their fears and concerns.

Although we fully support the Council’s commitment to recycling and your personal objective for Birmingham to become one of the leading green cities, we are concerned that as an optional service, many who might wish to take advantage of it may not be able to as quite simply, they may not be in a position to afford the charge.

We are therefore requesting that you reconsider the implementation of such a charge.

If a charge is enforced, we ask that you explore other ways to ensure that all residents can participate in such a scheme despite their financial position.

I am posting this open letter on our website so that all members and viewers of it can comment.

I appreciate these concerns may appear parochial to many but they reflect a concern that the ‘Centre’ may have not appreciated the depth of feeling within this community.

Yours sincerely

Kerry Jenkins,
Campaigns Co-ordinator,
Hall Green BLP

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