As the deadline for Birmingham’s bid for wheelie bin funding fast approaches we can now expect the council to reveal the full details of its proposals and begin formal and widespread consultation.
There has been much scare-mongering and hyperbole surrounding this issue but the one thing which stands out is that Secretary of State Eric Pickles will have the final say, particularly on a bid as large as Birmingham’s – which stands at something approaching £30 million.
Mr Pickles has made it very clear what is, and what is not, acceptable and that is why senior officers and politicians cooled over an earlier plan for food waste collections.
Headlines in newspapers showing poor residents with umpteen bins, boxes and bags for separate collections for newspapers, bottles, cans, plastic, grass cuttings, food scraps and everything else have made Mr Pickles’ blood boil.
In one interview he stormed: “Labour’s barmy bin rules have made putting out your rubbish more complicated than solving a Rubik’s cube.
“The public are fed up of all the bin dos and bin don’ts. They just want a simple service, which is why the Government is making sure that councils can offer a good weekly collection and make it easier to go green.”
Now Birmingham householders, in general, have four collections and have to sort paper from glass and tins – something their wheelie bin-using neighbours do not.
So how would a Local Government Secretary who thinks people have more than enough bins as it is take a plan to introduce another food waste collection?
No wonder alarm bells were raised in Birmingham and a fresh bid was compiled – increasing four collections to five may not pass muster.
In the same interview Mr Pickles highlighted councils which collect the recyclable in one go and sort them out at a plant later on.
So if, as expected, the city council unveils a three bin weekly collection, one for garden stuff, one for recyclables – glass, paper, plastic, tin – and a small one for everything else, it is most likely to meet with Mr Pickles’ approval.
After all they will be cutting the number of collections from four to three.
This policy is clearly as much a result of the Conservative ministerial influence as the Labour-run council’s desire to improve recycling rates.
This is something which Birmingham City Council’s Conservative opposition has considered. Their failure to challenge to the bin bid may be motivated by the need not to be seen to be harming Birmingham’s chances.
But should it be successful they will rightly be able to credit the influence of the Conservative minister with such forthright views on refuse collection to those who enjoy their new service – and blame the Labour council in areas where they do not meet with full approval.
Rank-and-file councillors have failed to grasp the significant changes being rolled out under the Labour council’s devolution plan.
That was the conclusion of council leader Sir Albert Bore when challenged over his decision to make ten local district committees meet in the city centre Council House.