MORE bin men will be hired to prevent a repeat of the fortnightly collections fiasco, city leaders pledged today, after it emerged there had been nearly 11,000 complaints from the public within the space of just weeks.
Environment chiefs were forced to spend nearly £120,000 on hiring agency workers to deal with the backlog, according to new figures.
Around 25 staff had to be drafted in and work around the clock to catch up after weekly collections of green and brown bins were axed in mid-September.
The shift also had a major knock-on effect on communal bins in flats and tenements.
The move comes after 40 staff left under the Voluntary Early Release Arrangement between January and April 2012 and only a handful have been replaced to date.
This meant Edinburgh City Council had to fork out for agency staff to fill the gap. This month, job ads for 14 posts will be placed.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “We have worked hard to resolve the problems experienced during the implementation period and now the number of complaints we are receiving is around the same level as last year.
“We always knew that the changes to the waste collection service would be a large-scale operation and that there would be a need for temporary agency staff.
“However this should be put in the context of the £3 million saving we will be making this year and the projected £5m saving expected for next year, as well as the huge amount of waste now diverted from landfill.”
New figures, released after a freedom of information request by the Evening News, also found there were 40 reported incidents of abuse against crews during the backlog period.
Among the problems identified at the time were crews missing collections on new routes, in part because they had not been given accurate plans.
New measures mean that reminders are now sent to crews on locations that have been missed previously and follow-ups of missed collections are now made.
Despite the assurances that extra staff could prevent a repeat of the problems, some community groups were not convinced.
Norman Tinlin, secretary of the Fairmilehead Community Council, an area which saw significant backlogs with collections, said that recruiting more workers would not be necessary if council bosses were better organised.
He said: “The situation is better than it was, and if the council and crews are organised, they shouldn’t need more staff.
“We heard apparent stories about crews refusing to pick up frozen bins, and there were gaps in collections here, so we’re not terrible sympathetic. It’s a heavily unionised workforce.”
As the Evening News reported earlier this month, there were widespread concerns over the 17-day gap between collections over the festive holidays.
Normal household bin collections are due to restart tomorrow across the Capital under council arrangements for the festive season, and there have been no reports of complaints over the holidays.
Despite the recent criticism, union bosses at Unite have consistently highlighted how flexible and willing crews have been to change shift patterns and working conditions.
Weekly collections consigned to the dustbin of history
EDINBURGH City Council’s decision to scrap weekly rubbish collections in September (as reported in the News) sparked a city-wide war over bins that threatens to spill into the new year.
The move to fortnightly pick-ups came with strict orders for rubbish collectors to enforce the policy by putting excess rubbish bags back into householders’ wheelie bins. Complaints steadily mounted across the Capital as bins in areas including Murrayfield, Granton and Leith were left unemptied for up to six weeks. The council blamed a change in bin crew shift patterns for delays and admitted it had run out of recycling bins due to increased demand. Private firm Blue Arrow was drafted in to clear the backlog.
Some household refuse was due to go uncollected for at least 17 days over the Christmas holidays, adding to an already strained service.