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Ombudsman issues third critical report about Birmingham’s bin collections

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is again having to report on Birmingham’s waste collection services after the council had made assurances things would improve.

The most recent report concerns three residents in different parts of the city, who had all been receiving assisted collections – where crews collect and return bins from an agreed storage point because the residents cannot do so themselves.

In all three cases the council had agreed to monitor collections after the residents made complaints about the service they were receiving to the Ombudsman.

In one case, a woman complained collection crews routinely failed to collect her waste, failed to return her bin to the right place when they did make a collection, and left neighbours’ bins blocking her driveway. Despite the council agreeing to monitor the service it provided to her, the problems persisted.

She told the Ombudsman’s investigation that when she challenged the crew they were rude, accused her of lying and ‘always moaning’.

In a second case, crews again failed to collect and return a woman’s bin. The council agreed to monitor the service but the crews are still missing her bins, and the woman has questioned whether this is happening deliberately because of her complaint.

In the third case, a woman complained about repeated failures by crews to return her bin to the right place with the lid closed. The woman told the investigation there appeared to be no repercussions for the collection crews, as she feels the council does not take her complaint seriously. An internal memo about her case from one council officer stated “With everything going on in the world…they are bothered about a lid being left open, it is pathetic…”

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“Each woman in these cases receive assisted collections because they are vulnerable in some way, and it is understandable that they feel they have been targeted by the crews for making their complaints.

“However, while there may be issues on the ground, it is not enough for the council to blame rogue crews and then fail to tackle these issues at a more senior level. We are concerned the situation the three women have faced is echoed across the city, particularly because they are served by different council depots, rather than there being a rotten culture at a single location.

“This continued failure to address public concerns effectively is as much a matter of corporate leadership as it is of day-to-day service delivery. I am pleased the council has agreed to my recommendations to tackle the issues at its most senior level and hope the oversight of both the Chief Executive and Leader will ensure issues are tackled in a more proactive manner.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to all three complainants and pay them £200 each for their frustration and difficulties.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review its waste collection monitoring arrangements to ensure they are robust and effective in identifying and resolving any problems.

It will also produce an action plan to identify ways of improving staff performance and reported directly to the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council.

Related Content : Birmingham City Council

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