Camden’s bin bag chaos? Now you see it…
Town Hall's communications team circulates pictures of areas hit by rubbish mountains now looking spick and span
20 April, 2017 — By Tom Foot
Compayne Gardens, before and after a clean up
A POLITICAL row over rubbish continued this week with the Tories and Labour slinging allegations at each other over the new collection regime.
Camden Conservatives say the Labour-run council only leapt into action on some streets where bin bags were piling up after it took a pasting in press. But Labour’s environment supremo said the Tories are exaggerating collection problems at the start of the new waste contract and suggested their relentless online posts about rubbish piles in the street were fake news.
In an unusual step, the council’s communications department went on the offensive by circulating pictures of areas that had featured in last week’s paper “looking clean” after a tidy up.
Oakley Square, before and after
Hampstead councillor Oliver Cooper said: “I was pleased to see the rubbish cleared up at the base of Belsize’s Dorney tower – but it shouldn’t have started piling up to begin with, and it shouldn’t have required newspaper front pages to shame Camden into clearing it up.” The row follows the introduction of a new system that has seen some households lose their weekly collection in favour of a fortnightly pick-up. Conservatives say the reduction has fuelled an increase in fly-tipping, which they say is illustrated by their catalogue of images.
A huge rubbish mountain at Dorney tower, on the Chalcots estate, Belsize, was featured on the New Journal front page – taken by Liberal Democrat councillor Tom Simon – but a town hall spokesman said it had been purposely left like that ahead of a collection. Camden Council said teams were sent out to “messy areas pictured in the CNJ” on Thursday to show that the complaints system, managed by contractor Veolia, was working.
Dorney, before and after
Conservative activists and politicians have for the past three weeks been posting bin bag selfies – known as belfies – next to bin bags in the streets and complaining about the service. But the Town Hall’s environment supremo Cllr Meric Apak said: “Most of the photos posted by Tory activists represents rubbish put out for normal collection which is cleared the same day. Missed collections have been up less than a couple of percentage points in week one; however, this is already on a downward trajectory.”
He added: “The total amount of rubbish collections missed was around 2 per cent. This figure is higher than it should be, but one which we’ll be able to quickly bring into line with our normal service standards.”
The council – hit by unprecedented Government cut backs – is saving £5million a year by striking a new contract with private contractor Veolia that Camden says could boost recycling rates by 20 per cent.
Recycling collections will continue on a weekly basis across the borough. Long-standing workers have been threatened with redundancies as part of the changes. And Tories claim rubbish collections have been made fortnightly in the more affluent parts of Hampstead, Highgate, Kentish Town, Primrose Hill, West Hampstead and Belsize where more of their supporters live. Despite extra staff being hired on the complaints hotline over Easter, the council and Veolia continued to be hit with abuse on Twitter.
Hampstead musician Ben Watt – half of the smash-hit band Everything But the Girl – tweeted “Help!” and warned the council about missing bins and how his new orange bin bags had been “ignored” by collection workers.
Several letters have been sent to the New Journal welcoming the changes as progressive and encouraging residents to get onboard with the new system which could help save the planet.
Cllr Apak added: “Last week 90 per cent of collections were completed successfully and we’re confident this rate will rise significantly this week. Now residents are beginning to get used to their new collections, we can begin to look forward in the certainty that our new recycling and waste contract will keep Camden clean, raise our recycling rates and save £5million a year.”