Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The new bin scheme "is generally seen to be working"

I've had an email from Councillor Gary Parker replying to my response to his comments on a blog entry about the costs of the new bin scheme (166% more rubbish lorries).

It contains a statement that's one of the funniest statements I've heard in 2008, either that or either Councillor Parker or myself is incredibly out of touch with the opinion's of Greenwich residents.

The statement?

"the new system is generally seen to be working and both improving the environment locally & regionally"

Seen to be working by whom? I don't remember my street looking like a rubbish dump before the new scheme came in and my efforts to be green have resulted in more than double the number of polluting rubbish trucks trundling up and down my street.

My local friends seem to be equally fed up with the new scheme and other local bloggers have been critical.

So am I and my friends in the minority and on the whole local people think the new system has made things better?

Or is Councillor Parker making it up?

I'll send a response to him later, for the moment I'm too busy alternating between laughter and a concern that I'm living in some weird parallel universe, besides there's parties to be got ready for.

Happy new year to everyone and in the mean time here's the Councillors email in full:

Thank you for giving me space on your blog, to put forward the points I detailed in my previous emails. I would prefer not to get caught up in too much detail on this issue without seeking clarification on a number of issues you have raised. As I am not personally responsible for day to day management of the service, I will forward this email to council officers for their comments.
I would add though:
  • While are still things that need to be improved in both waste collection and environmental improvements, the new system is generally seen to be working and both improving the environment locally & regionally and saves significant sums of money
  • Myself and other ward councillors are working on initiatives to improve the environment and involve local people, work with CCRA as described in my previous email is only the first step
  • We will provide further information later in 2009 to local people, once we have consulted local community groups and developed some further proposals with these groups

Happy new year to you, all your readers and Charlton residents alike

Cllr Gary Parker
Charlton Ward

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Councillor Gary Parker Responds...

Councillor Gary Parker has emailed me about my last blog entry.

I'm very grateful that he's done this and I will be replying in full. For the moment though and in the interest of giving the Council a right of reply here is what he said to me:

I have just read your blog dated 18/12/08 regarding rubbish collection, many of the points including the statistics are either misinformed or just plain wrong, rather than rebut them point by point, I would like to point out a few facts that are not in your blog

1) The new recycling & collection system is both environmentally friendly- thanks to our recycling centre in Thamesmead (the MRF) we now recycle up to 40% of waste materials, this results in less landfill, significantly less journeys to landfill sites, less lorry journeys and has less environmental impact and pollution.

2) It also saves the council tax payer and the council money

3) We are now one of the highest recycling local authorities in the UK and the MRF centre is state of the art and the envy of many other local authorities- try quoting another local authority in the surrounding areas who can match this or provide a similar service.

4) The council is trying to educate people on recycling and associated issues, if we start taking other action against people without trying to educate them first, no doubt we will be accused of acting like ‘big brother’ ‘nanny state’ etc. If you read the rest of Cllr Sidhu’s letter and enclosures you will see information regarding the recycling programme and associated issues, this is something you did not bother to quote in your blog

5) Some local authorities give their residents up to 6 boxes or bins to recycle various materials, so I think your point on the numbers of bins etc, without comparison is not well made.

6) I think it is the height of cynicism to suggest we would rather cut children’s services to pay for more bins- you do not understand the budgeting process ( some grants from central govt are ‘ring fenced’ and in many cases we have a legal obligation to provide certain services, so we cannot just switch funding from one area to another, as you seem to suggest in this case, even if we wanted to- which we don’t) and that report is very inaccurate, we are not going to cut ‘front line’ children’s services , as you will see in due course, once the new proposals are in the public domain.

7) Greenwich Council provides very good value for money and over the last few years the Greenwich element of the council tax has either been frozen or had a low increase, far less than surrounding authorities such as Bexley or Bromley. I am hopeful this will continue as Greenwich as a local authority is often commended for its financial stability and management- (if you noticed it recently, we were not on the list of authorities which invested in Icelandic banks and had subsequent problems, due to our good financial management & policy), this also helps us provide extra services and invest in new ones, like the MRF, as circumstances change.

8) Today I and my co-councillor Janet Gilman have been on a two hour walkabout with members of the Central Charlton Residents Association in the area to identify problems and issues and are working constructively with them to take action, identify solutions and to develop new ways of working with them and other community groups to improve the local environment. This is the way forward in my view and as a local councillor I will continue to work with such groups to tackle these issues which are often complex in nature and not so simple to address as some people might suggest.

Cllr Gary Parker Charlton Ward

Edited to add my response:
Thank you very much for getting in touch with me and responding to my blog post.

To begin with I'd like to clarify that I believe in the new rubbish collection scheme and support the Council's aim to increase recycling and decrease landfill.

In brief I'd like to say that I believe the best way to do that is to tackle the problems caused by the new scheme and not just to send out extra rubbish lorries, with the associated extra cost of emissions and money.

Going in to more detail you say that the Council is trying to educate people on recycling issues. It appears to be the same households that have continual problems with the new scheme week after week after week. Therefore how can residents conclude that a years worth of education has been a success? Yes we've had leaflets, yes Councillor Sidhu's letter did once again give the details of the new scheme and yes occasional articles in Greenwich Time have done the same. However it's not working is it?

Can you understand the frustration and confusion that residents feel when instead of actually solving the problem the Council send an extra 1.5 bin lorries a week down our street? If this were the early days of the scheme perhaps that would be an understandable short term remedy. However when the scheme is a year old how can it be anything other than an admission of failure?

Furthermore in these times when so many of us are having to tighten our belts it smarts somewhat when we see those extra collections being done by lorries seemingly hired from an external company.

Can you reveal how much these extra collections are costing us?

My statements about the number of bins we will have wasn't really about the quantity itself, instead I was trying to ask how, when people are unable to deal with a two bin scheme, it is believed that having three bins will improve things?

Greenwich Time, Council leaflets and your email tells us residents that we get value for money, that we're helping the environment and that generally everything's going great. However when we've spent a year walking down our streets stepping around ripped open black sacks and green bins overflowing with mouldering bags of rubbish that just doesn't ring true.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not a creature was stirring, except for 166% more rubbish lorries.

I've received a leaflet from Greenwich Council informing me of the rubbish collection dates over the Christmas period, it also includes a letter from Councillor Rajwant Sidhu congratulating residents for supporting the new collection scheme.

Supporting? Congratulating?

What fantasy fairy tale world is Councillor Rajwant Sidhu living in?

Further on in the leaflet there is an admission that there is a "relatively high volume of waste being placed in the wrong bin." Perhaps the truth is beginning to penetrate the sand in which the Council has it's collective head stuck.

So what is going on?

Well one measure might be how many collections per week the Council is doing.

Under the old system there would be a green bin, what was all waste, every week and recycling every other week. So on average 1.5 collection lorries a week would roll down your street.

Under the new scheme the theory is that green and blue are taken every week and black sacks once per fortnight. So that's 5 lorries every two weeks, or 2.5 a week.

The practice of the new scheme in my road is that green bins, blue bins and black sacks are taken every week. There is then an additional collection the day after to empty the bins that have the wrong waste in them. So that's 4 rubbish lorries trundling down my road every single week.

They have to do this weekly black sack and "contaminated bin" collection because so many people are continuing to completely ignore the new scheme and keep on doing the same thing.

Now the Council could try and tackle the problem by going to talk to those residents who continually put the wrong rubbish out.

But no.

The Council would rather spend our money funding a 60% increase in the number of bin lorries per week (I'm getting 4 lorries a week, compared to the 2.5 I should get under the new scheme). To do this it appears that they're having to charter in lorries (and staff?) from external companies.

But apparently they do have a long term solution! Black wheely bins will be making a reappearance! Somehow people that aren't bothered to use a two bin system correctly will magically do the right thing when presented with three of them.

And how much will that extra bin cost?

All to avoid actually admitting there's a problem and talking to people.

What do we gain from the new scheme? Well we've boosted our recycling rate by 40%, which is a good thing.

But what's the price the Council are having us pay?

Well compared to the old scheme when I had 1.5 lorries a week and I now have 4 the price for 40% more recycling is:
  • 166% more rubbish collections.
  • 166% more diesal consumed and fumes emitted.
  • 166% more working hours for rubbish collection staff.

Does that seem economical or green?

Well in the wonderful world of Greenwich Council it surely must.

Consider though that Greenwich Council are planning to cut childrens services but can find the money to continually paper over the problems with their new rubbish scheme.

Could it be that the rubbish problems they've caused might actually make the electorate turn away from them and that their seats are more important than children?

Edited to add: As Simon has pointed out my maths went a bit pear shaped... I think I got caught up with my comparisons with the new scheme as it should be and the new scheme as it is and it all went downhill from there.

To clarify under the old scheme I had 1.5 bin lorries roll down my street every week.

Under the new scheme I should have 2.5, 1 extra or an increase of 66%.

Under the way the Council are working I get 4 lorries per week. That's 2.5 more than the old scheme, an increase of 166%, and 1.5 more than the new scheme should be which is an increase of 60%.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Princess Alice, Thamesmead

I've not commented on this, and I should have done, but since my praise about the Blackheath Standard it's gone through several new managers and most definitely entered a bit of a slump when it comes to the quality of the food.

A number of my friends have now given up on eating there and this lead me to return to the Princess Alice. A couple of years ago it used to be a part of the Brewers Fayre chain but then it closed down, it's been reopened by Crown Carveries for a while now but I hadn't been back there until recently.

Aside from a handful of other dishes all they really do is roast dinners, which was exactly what we were after. On a Sunday a roast dinner was about £6.50, in the week I think it was about half the price. For the money we had a choice of beef, turkey or gammon and as many vegetables as you can handle.

Was it any good? Yes it was, better than the last few roasts I've had at the Standard. True enough I have had better but this was good solid food and everyone was happy.

We all had desserts too which also pleased us all.

If there is a downside it's the location (opposite Belmarsh Prison) and that some of the other clientele seemed to be suffering from the "I can't tell my child to sit down and behave in a public restaurant" disease that seems to afflict so many people there days.

Still all things told for the large family group of us, including children, that went it was a good option and I think we'll be returning there.

Princess Alice
2a Battery Road
SE28 0JS

Tel: 0208 3177847

PS: Oh and as for the Blackheath Standard they have recently brought in a new menu and the manager's said that things will improve so I should check it out...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chas & Dave at the Blackheath Halls

I spent the first half of my life north of the river, the land of tube trains and late night taxi rides home, in the east end of London. My Dad was born within earshot of the Bow Bells and I heard him once claim that "the Kray twins were good blokes, they only did it to their own." If the first part of that doesn't make my Dad a true Cockney then the second surely must.

So perhaps it's strange that it's taken me so long to attend a Chas & Dave concert, perhaps it's stranger still that when I did it was south of the river.

Saturday night found me at the Blackheath Halls with a very diverse crowd watching the "Rockneys" in action.

The show was broken into two rather different halves. In the first they played some of their more obscure songs, answered questions, sang happy birthday to a couple of audience members and played old style Rock and Roll songs. Chas was on an electice guitar, Dave was on an accoustic and tucked away at the back was Mick on the drums. Now maybe they felt an urge to prove that beyond their slightly humorous image they've actually got some serious musical chops and, in my opinion, prove it they did. They clearly loved the music they were playing and they played it well and with passion, which is always a joy to watch.

The questions and answers were also amusing, Mick joining up with them a very short while after they got together is why they're not known as "Chas, Dave & Mick", though there was a claim that they'd review the situation and consider renaming themselves. And did you know that Chas used to play the violin in the band? One night in the middle of a solo the neck of his violin broke off and he took it as a sign to call it quits on that front.

And then on to the second half in which Chas moved to a keyboard and the "favourites" came out. At this the audience really came alive with people dancing up in front of the stage and up the back, they even had a stage invasion or two.

So it was almost like two gigs in one. An intimate performance of some great songs and then a party like show of songs you remember from years ago. The second half was what I expected the show to be like, the first half was what really impressed me though.

They're on tour again next year (the dates are here) though as of today there's no repeat showing in Blackheath. However chatting to some of the crew did reveal that the evening was a sell out, so hopefully they'll be back there. I'd certainly like to see them again and it would be all the better if it were local.

Oh and to the person who wrongly claimed a signed T-Shirt that they hadn't paid for, stealing from Chas & Dave? Shame on you! Shame!