A CONSULTATION programme on the future of Sheffield’s bins will be wrapped up at midnight on Sunday - with little sign of the dust settling on the political wrangling.
Around 2,200 replies have been received so far by the council, and the results will be submitted to a working group, which has now been boycotted by opposition Liberal Democrats on the grounds that it is a “smokescreen” for introducing fortnightly bin collections and charging for the collection of green waste.
The city’s ruling Labour group insists that all options are open, and have accused the Lib Dems of “putting politics above working in the best interests of local people”.
A review of the way Sheffield’s household waste is collected was launched against a background of increasing financial pressures on the authority and an ambition of increasing recycling rates.
Despite the introduction of blue boxes at a cost of £2.5m, the city’s recycling rate for paper, glass and plastics has only gone up by about 1%.
It is thought many householders are using the doorstep service as an alternative to taking it to a supermarket car park or other collection point, so there is little overall benefit.
Another issue is varying recycling rates across the city, and there is also the confusing situation of householders in some parts of Sheffield being able to choose how they use blue recycling bins – and some parts only have, at least for the time being, the initial non-flexible system.
The consultation programme is also being carried out amid complaints over restrictions on the number of sacks of green waste that will be collected at the kerbside as part of a service costing £1.5m.
And rumbling persistently is the controversy over whether wheelie bins should be emptied once or twice a fortnight.
The working group was set up by Labour as an all-party vehicle to create a consensus over offering better value for money, reflecting residents’ views and improving recycling rates. The Lib Dems, who have made clear they want to keep weekly collections and free green waste collection unless there is widespread public support for change, said they embraced the joint approach until concerns were raised by residents during public consultation about “loaded questions” and their “leading nature”. Concerns have also been raised about focus groups and the difficulty of some residents to access the survey, they said.
Group leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “There is no point in Liberal Democrats participating in an exercise that is clearly designed to serve a preconceived agenda of halving black bin collections and charging for green waste.”
Labour leader Julie Dore said the wording of the survey had been agreed at a meeting of the cross-party waste review when the Lib Dems were represented.
“The whole point of having members of all the political parties taking a thorough look at the waste service is that we didn’t want this issue to become a political football. It is therefore regretful that the Lib Dems appear to be putting politics above working in the best interests of local people to find the best way of delivering the waste service, whilst providing value for money for local taxpayers.”
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for environment, said officers had put forward options include fortnightly collections and charging for green waste, but the authority was awaiting the outcome of the consultation and working group recommendations.
“There are many permutations about how we could change the service, and we are being honest in asking people what they think. We certainly don’t have any preconceived ideas about going to fortnightly bin collections.”
Waste services are operated by Veolia on behalf of the council.
The questionnaire is available on www.sheffield.gov.uk/wastesurvey. Paper versions are available from council First Point offices, housing offices and libraries.