The leader of Douglas Council has rejected calls for the local authority to reverse its decision to cut bin collections across the capital.
Claire Wells was responding to a letter from Douglas North MHK David Ashford in which he said the policy had been a failure.
Mrs Wells said that since the policy was introduced earlier this year, recycling rates across Douglas had tripled from 5% to, a still low, 15%.
Mr Ashford, who has gained the support of several of his Douglas colleagues in the House of Keys, wrote to the council saying: ‘I have been contacted by people who are distressed, anxious, upset and even angry at the changes that are now more and more showing to be ill thought out and ill conceived.
‘The implementation has been ill judged and the requirement for residents to undergo a waste audit should they require additional capacity smacks of “big brother” at best.’
In what could be termed a point-by -point rebuttal of Mr Ashford’s concerns, Mrs Wells said the change was ‘not a reduction in service’ and that the council was ‘still collecting the same amount of weight we have always collected and have not asked householders to refrain from setting out a material that we once collected and no longer do’.
She added: ‘You state the policy is not working and I would challenge this assertion. We spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with those residents who are opposed to the change in service on philosophical grounds, rather than genuine concerns brought about by an inability to manage their waste – we are and will continue to assist the latter residents.
‘However, we really should be celebrating the many residents who have adapted to the new service and for whom it is very much working. By and large, these residents are actually put off commenting on the continuous “shouting” of the few unhappy residents on Facebook, as they are then abused by those unwilling to change.’
In his letter, Mr Ashford had raised concerns about people who may need an extra bin due to medical conditions and the extra waste this can generate. He said that he had been contacted by families who were worried about this and felt embarrassed that their bin usage could be questioned before they were entitled to a second bin.
Mrs Wells told him that she had one family contact her about this decision and said that in her experience these checks ‘are undertaken sympathetically and with grace’.
She added: In addition, it is always almost immediately clear if the household is recycling and recycling every waste stream they are able to at the kerbside; a little education and awareness goes a long way in these scenarios.
‘Our experience is that householders are often quite keen to show us their bins and it hasn’t been necessary for staff to rummage through their rubbish.
‘As I write this letter to you, we have received 119 requests for assessments and have conducted 71, including follow-up visits. In the beginning, we found that 25% of households needed extra capacity and a little education and awareness assisted the remaining 75% in managing their waste.’
The Douglas MHK had also raised concerns about neighbours arguing over bin usage, however Mrs Wells said that the council was aware of a ‘few isolated cases and will engage with those householders’.
Mrs Wells also responded to allegations that the bin changes had led to fly tipping across the capital, saying ‘there have been no reported incidents’.
She added: ‘There are some hot spot areas for side waste that we have been monitoring and providing assistance. We have been working closely with the crews to monitor side waste so that, once again, we can attend and assist struggling householders.
‘All of the incidents of side waste are from households who are not engaging with the council’s waste service and are not recycling. Incorrect disposal of waste has always been an issue that rears from time to time.’
The council leader also rejected concerns from Mr Ashford around vermin in the capital, saying there is ‘no scientific evidence that fortnightly collections lead to an increase in vermin’, this is despite Mr Ashford saying he had spoken to residents who said they had seen an increase in vermin since the fortnightly collections were introduced.
Addressing his concerns around people living in flats, Mrs Wells said the main issues being experienced by the council are ‘poor management of bin stores and a reluctance to engage with the new waste service on philosophical grounds’.
One area on which Mrs Wells and Mr Ashford did agree was that bin collectors should not be abused by residents as a result of the policy shouldn’t be happening.
She said: ‘They do not deserve it and we will continue to encourage them to report any such incidents so we can deal with those members of the public directly.’