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400% increase in refuse collection complaints are more than just teething problems

A dramatic increase in complaints to Broxbourne Council’s environmental services since a major change to waste collection procedures last October has been put down to ‘teething problems’ by the Council.  The figures, revealed by a Freedom of Information request from the Hertfordshire Mercury, suggest that the problems are far greater.  The number of complaints in the four months prior to the change was 921 but for the four months following the change this rose to a staggering 4702.  The Councillor overseeing the change, Tim Hutchings ,has said that he expects the number to reduce substantially in February and March but there is little justification for this in figures which show that the number of complaints has actually risen each month with the highest number, 1638,  being received in January.

Labour Leader Malcolm Aitken has said that he has never received so many calls about this issue as he has over the period since October and dismissed the claim that these are just teething problems. He told the Mercury ‘You always get teething problems when you run something new but I am afraid that this was more than teething problems’.

This is disturbing on a number of levels. Firstly the inconvenience and distress caused to residents by the failure to deliver a core service and secondly the amount of Council staff time taken handling complaints.  With food waste only being collected fortnightly a further problem is likely to emerge in the Spring and Summer and that is the problems caused by food rotting in bins for up to 14 days.  The Council must have their fingers crossed that we don’t have a ‘barbecue summer’.

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