Bin disputes cost Birmingham City Council £7,000

More than £7,000 was spent by the city council resolving 40 bin disputes which reached the local government watchdog over the past year.

Birmingham City Council household waste and recycling bins.Photo: LDRS.
Birmingham City Council household waste and recycling bins.Photo: LDRS.

Birmingham City Council laid out between £100 to £400 per complaint under the recommendations of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Complaints about the council’s recycling and refuse collection had been the subject of a public report in 2019, when the watchdog instructed the authority to conduct a “lessons learned review”.

But in this year’s annual letter to the city council, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King said: “The ongoing issues should be a significant concern to you as it evidences a poor service to the residents of the city.”

The ombudsman investigated 44 complaints about recycling and refuse collections and upheld “over 95 per cent of these” in the past year.

Mr King added: “I hope you take further action to address the ongoing pattern of failures and that I see a reduction in the number of cases coming to my office.”

Birmingham had the highest number of overall upheld complaints of any authority at 107 – more than twice the number of the second highest total, held by Essex County Council at 43.

It should be noted Birmingham City Council serves the largest population of any authority handled by the ombudsman.

The upheld rate for the city council – the percentage of complaints where the watchdog ruled in favour of the complainant – was 82 per cent.

This is higher than other councils serving large populations such as Leeds (76 per cent), Sheffield (71 per cent), Cornwall (55 per cent) and Manchester (64 per cent).

Mr King also noted that in 20 out of 89 cases involving remedies – actions taken by the council to help appease complainants – these tasks had not been undertaken within the agreed timescales.

He said: “While it is pleasing that we recorded our satisfaction with your Council’s compliance in 89 cases where we recommended a remedy, it is disappointing that in 20 of these cases remedies were not completed within the agreed timescales.

“Several cases involved simple and straightforward recommendations, such as the issue of an apology or a payment.

“While I acknowledge the pressures councils are under, such delays add to the injustice already suffered by complainants.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “One complaint is one complaint too many, but this has to be viewed in the context of the fact we make approximately 27 million waste collections per year.

“We are determined to improve services to get this number down in future years because we know clean streets are a top priority for the people of Birmingham.

“This is exactly why we have put an extra £7.2 million into street scene services, including bin collections, this year.”

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