Saturday, 8 September 2007

Update on Alternate Weekly waste Collection (AWC)

Today I received the report from our "independent" consultants ABA on the results of the survey of the households in the trial area. One thing that needs to be remembered is they are working for and paid by the Council. Who pays the piper calls the tune. They have a close relationship with senior officers who can choose to continue to use them as outsourced consultants or choose never to use them again. As a firm I have nothing against them - but have experienced tension from senior officers in the past when I have asked to see the raw data they analyse to produce these reports.
I have to repeat also at this point my disappointment with the quality of the survey. The questions were appalling, and did "load" the option to introduce AWC which I think did the survey a great dis service. Residents are not fools. With that in mind the results are even more interesting.
6,549 households received the survey. 2,916 returned them (45%). Of these 1,487 supported AWC (23% of all households, or 51% of those that responded). This reflects the 20% support AWC received on my web poll. A big thank you to those that have voted in my poll and and also thanks to those who left comments which have raised some extremely interesting points.
Having spoken to some of those who did not return their surveys, I was met with an attitude of "my remarks will not make any difference - the Council will do what they want". I am bitterly disappointed with this attitude. Politicians value nothing more than their own skin - they want to be re-elected. They will not as a majority vote in schemes that will jeopardise their seats. I believe this is one such issue. Waste collection is at the very heart of what we are paid to do. And messing with it is playing with fire. Many people regardless of their views on waste collection say they do not want to get an inferior service and pay more for it. The report goes on to explain how AWC effects the popularity of the Council. This will not be music to the ears of local politicians. So it must be now looking less likely that we will go with AWC.
The final decision will be made by the 7 members of Rushmoor's cabinet, who have decided not to refer this to a meeting of the full Council. Which is a shame, as it stops myself and others from debating this with all my fellow councillors before a full Council vote, giving all councillors an opportunity to be involved and take part in this important decision.
This does leave me with more questions:
1. If AWC is not supported and we have been told the status quo is not an option, what do we do now?
2. What was the cost of the trial and was it worth it?
3. If this was a serious trial, why wasn't the other option (weekly collection of smaller bins) trialed as well? I find it unscientific and sloppy that both options were not put on trial. Or this was not so much a trial as a litmus test on residents tolerance of AWC.
4. We have spent a lot of time and money focused on AWC and recycling. What are we going to do positively about promoting the other arguably more valuable habits of reducing and reusing items before they see any of our bins?
The good news from all this I hope is that residents will see that they are listened to, and that your voice and opinion is not only important but needs to be expressed and shared with your political representatives. And if your political representatives are not listening to you - do not vote for them.
What do you think?

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