THESE CUTS NEED TO BE DISPOSED OF SOCIALLY
Some details emerged about the green waste collection at the Bournville Ward Committee last night. A spokesman from the Lifford Lane Household Recycling Centre (HRC) explained that there have been 46,000 take-ups of the £35 charge for green waste collection. These pay for twenty collections per household during the growing period of the year. That 46,000 figure represented only 10% of city households.
He further explained that after initial problems, the huge queues at the Lifford Lane centre had been more or less eliminated. The maximum wait now is about twelve minutes (!?) The waste is not burnt, but is taken to a recycling centre in Lichfield to be composted. The £2 million saved by stopping the free green waste collection has been achieved by employing fewer workers. What happens to the composted waste in a financial sense was not made clear.
It was claimed that when there was a ‘free at the point of use’ system in place, the green waste was getting out of control, but the new system was making it more manageable. Other municipalities charge for this service so we are just stepping into line with them.
So, instead of acting as a model of how things should be done, Birmingham is levelling down its service delivery to the way it is done by others.
The argument that it is the wealthy households who tend to have bigger gardens and so were the main beneficiaries of the free collection system is countered by the fact that £35 per year might not mean much to them, but it means a lot to hard pressed working class households who also have gardens and benefited from the free service.
So, in one fell swoop the “modernisation” of the green waste disposal has united the wealthy and poor households in opposition to this new scheme. That explains why it has proved so easy to collect signatures in opposition, no matter where you set up your stall. People are already paying their council tax for local services. Why should they pay twice?
People want the free garden waste collection restored.
The extra financial burden placed on households is in order to save the Chancellor of the Exchequer money; he has other priorities. However, there is also the question of how many vehicle-miles are being clocked up by people taking their own individual waste to the HRC rather than a few lorries doing it for everyone. At present 90% of households are not using the £35 ‘service’, so presumably they are either dumping it, burning it (so much for the green city vision), composting it (if they have the facilities) or driving it to the HRC centres. The huge car queues at the Lifford Lane centre that began earlier this year suggest the latter. If the fee starts creeping up in future years, that percentage might not drop as intended, as the scheme ‘beds’ in.
Does Birmingham really need more vehicles on the road? Is this not an inefficient, polluting and anti-social way of doing things? After all, even the private sector finds it more efficient to use couriers for the collection and delivery of goods.
And of course it also means that only those needing this service have to pay for it, either directly via the £35 fee or indirectly in terms of petrol money (and time). That kind of argument is anti-social, especially if you start applying it to other services, education for example.
The point was also made by Councillor Sealey (Con) last night that some people do not have the necessary car, internet access or credit card in order to register for the service and pay for collection. What are they to do?
Surely, a city which aspires to be green and social would see this new system as a retrograde step; the need to collect green waste is a communal matter not an individual one and should be free at the point of use.
This whole saga may not represent the unkindest cut of all, but however it pans out it represents more austerity dumped on the backs of Birmingham citizens. Leveling the grass and the hedges in this fashion is not leveling the equality gap.
And while we are on the subject of waste collection, there is a slight link between the issue and the current Zionist bombardment of Gaza. Think Veolia, and look at our post on the 28th December 2013. (They run the five Birmingham HRC depots.)
A progressive council would bring all waste collection back in-house, make green waste collection free at the point of use and employ a suitable number of workers with good wages and conditions to do the job properly.
But that means standing up to austerity and not implementing it.
Masefield Community Centre
The situation of the Masefield Community Centre, where the meeting itself was held, is still precarious. It is hanging on for life each year, particularly with the question of who pays for its long-serving worker. This is all because of the huge cuts to the Selly Oak District budget which Labour has pushed through.
The Masefield Estate compares poorly with other areas of Bournville in terms of its housing and amenities, although there have been some improvements in recent years. There are attempts to find alternative funding for the centre to keep it operating, but if these fail, it would be a terrible blow to the area if it was lost. The improving situation of late would go into reverse. Another anti-social measure is just not what an already low-voting area needs.
These two issues, the green waste and the Masefield Community Centre do not sit well with the phrase in the Council leader’s recent policy statement – (The city) “is a place where citizens work together to look after and improve their local neighbourhood and offer support to their neighbours.” No, it seems instead that obstacles are being put in place by the Council to prevent citizens doing just that.
The path to a grey and anti-social city that we are on needs to be rejected.