Rubbish row spills over into election

Overflowing bins, missed collections and dirty streets have been a recurring source of controversy for the current council administration.

Full Ribbish Binns in The Leith Walk Area, Edinburgh. Buchanan Street.
Full Ribbish Binns in The Leith Walk Area, Edinburgh. Buchanan Street.

The 2016 Edinburgh People Survey revealed record low satisfaction with street cleaning and refuse collection.

The Labour-SNP coalition says its 65-point action plan, including cutting the cost of special uplifts and a new emphasis on brushes rather than litter-pickers, is already making a difference, but opposition parties remain critical.

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Both the SNP – who promise a £1 million “deep clean” of the city – and Labour now say they would go beyond the current policy and introduce free uplifts of bulky items 
for householders and deploy more environmental wardens to deal with issues such as dog fouling.

Cllr Lesley Hinds. Picture; Ian Rutherford

Both these proposals also feature in the Greens’ manifesto, along with a pledge to promote community clean-ups and a call for a ban on disposable packaging at the council.

The Conservatives have reopened the controversy over the abandoned privatisation plans of the previous Lib Dem-SNP administration, saying they would make waste collection and street cleaning more cost-effective by tendering all or parts of the service.

The Lib Dems defend the privatisation plans, saying they would have meant more money for other services. And they propose “local control” over street cleaning squads.

Robert Aldridge - Liberal Democrat

Cllr Robert Aldridge.

Edinburgh is a uniquely beautiful city with large areas of green space and incorporating a World Heritage site which we are committed to retain. Our parks and green spaces are essential to our health and wellbeing and our success as a city and we will invest in them.

Liberal Democrats will work to make Edinburgh Council an exemplar for reducing our carbon footprint and work with other major employers in the city towards a target of a carbon neutral Edinburgh.

We have areas of poor air quality which damage the health of those who live, work or visit those areas. Liberal Democrats will seek the means from the Scottish Government to establish Low Emission Zones in parts of the city where polluting vehicles will be prohibited or fined. We will seek better enforcement of unnecessary engine idling and ensure that Edinburgh Council sets an example of best practice with its own vehicles.

Liberal Democrats believe the council should focus on getting the basics right. Edinburgh’s refuse collection record under Labour and the SNP has been atrocious. There have been constant changes, regular missed bin collections and a failure to meet recycling targets. When Lib Dems led the council between 2007 and 2012 recycling rates improved dramatically, new recycling services were introduced and bins were largely collected on time.

Lesley Macinnes. Picture; contributed

In 2012 we supported outsourcing this service to guarantee quality of service at a lower cost. If we had done so failures in service would have led to fines on contractors and the council would have saved up to £72 million over the five years to spend on other essential services like social care, education or fixing the roads and pavements. Lib Dems are prepared to look at all options to improve our recycling and waste collection services.

We need cleaner streets. Lib Dems will give more local control over street cleaning and environmental wardens.

Lesley Hinds - Labour

When Edinburgh Labour took responsibility for cleansing in the city from the previous Lib Dem/SNP council, the service had gone through years of uncertainty with the threat of privatisation. After spending millions on this proposed change they abandoned privatisation. Labour was left to pick up the mess.

Cllr Lesley Hinds. Picture; Ian Rutherford

Labour has over the past five years made the service more efficient with resources going to the front line and leaner management. This was recently recognised by Audit Scotland. Edinburgh was one of the top performing councils by reducing the cost per resident. Labour’s aim is to reduce our waste, re-use and recycle. Our top priority is to keep our city clean, in all our communities.

This Labour-led council has taken action and implemented a Waste and Cleansing Improvement Plan and for example has:

l reduced missed collections, with 0.17 per cent of collections resulting in a customer complaint

l changed charges for special uplifts for bulky items to £5 per item, resulting in a massive increase in the use of the service and a reduction in fly-tipping.

Edinburgh Labour pledges to scrap the bulky uplift charge.

With recycling, we have:

Cllr Robert Aldridge.

l Increased recycling, to 45 per cent

l Less waste going to landfill

l Food waste plant producing fertiliser and energy

l Recycling improvements to more than 140,000 households

l Improved communal recycling, serving flats and tenements

Edinburgh Labour will further:

l Have no waste going to landfill thanks to new facility being built

l Continue ‘Our Edinburgh’ campaign focusing on social responsibility and community participation

l Further reduce trade waste bins on the streets

l Keep the service in-house and invest in our staff and service

l Continue the trial of bin fill sensors, ensuring they are uplifted when full

l Have more Environmental Wardens to deal with dog fouling, fly tipping and litter dropping.

Lesley Macinnes - SNP

Our waste and street cleaning services haven’t always hit the standard we rightly expect, despite our staff working hard to make our city greener.

We have started root and branch improvements of the systems that we know many Capital residents find frustrating to deal with and we’ll see this through to the end.

We’ll invest £1m in a deep clean of Edinburgh in the first few months of an SNP-led council and we’ll halve the number of missed bin complaints in the first six months by dealing with missed bin collections.

The Tories have shown they haven’t got a clue about how to improve our waste services, putting all their faith in the tired Tory mantra of privatisation.

Our city deserves better than that. Actions we’ve taken so far and plans we have set out at this election show a detailed roadmap of how we can improve these services.

Edinburgh is the greenest city in Scotland and we’ll work hard to make sure people in the city can make the most of an improved environment.

We will introduce a free uplift service for bulky household items, as well as introducing tougher penalties for fly-tipping.

By planting an additional 1,000 trees across the Capital and tackling issues like dog fouling we can significantly improve the quality of public spaces.

Our parks are a fantastic asset but need continual investment. We’re committed to replace or refurbish 25 playparks and obtain green flag status for all our major parks.

Iain Whyte - Conservative

Edinburgh’s bin collections are the most expensive per property of any city in Scotland. They even compare badly on efficiency with many rural councils where the sparseness of properties should make collections more expensive. For this heavy cost we get an incredibly poor service. Throughout 2015 and 2016 there were huge numbers of public complaints to the council about overflowing bins and missed wheelie bin collections. Recycling rates haven’t met the target, while the system is incredibly complicated and keeps changing. This means more landfill tax costing residents even more in council tax. If you want to complain you are left hanging on the phone for ages and even the calendars for bin collections were produced late. Now there is even a service cut with brown bin collections going to every three weeks meaning more waste is likely to go into landfill bins. Plenty of other councils deal with waste better and cheaper so we must learn from them. And if we find we need to outsource the service to get value and quality we should do that. Service to residents comes first with the Conservatives, not the interests of the service provider.

Chas Booth

FOR Greens, care for our environment underlies everything we do. There are no jobs, schools or cultural events on a dead planet.

I believe Edinburgh can be the greenest city in the UK. That means taking radical action on air pollution with Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone.

It means a transformation in waste prevention – putting reuse and repair to the fore as demonstrated by the fantastic “Remakery” on Leith Walk; and committing to a target of recycling at least 70 per cent of waste.

It means bold steps in how we generate and use energy, with the council’s own energy company working alongside community energy providers to increase use of energy from the sun, wind and water. We’d raise standards for new buildings to “zero carbon” and make high efficiency district heating the norm in new developments, just as it is throughout Europe.

And, of course, it means cherishing and enhancing the city’s green spaces – protecting them from development, planting more trees with the help of schools and extending community involvement.

But residents’ environment is also more immediate as well: the state of the streets, the pick-up of bins, the condition of our green spaces. I doubt if there is a political group which has spent as much time as Green councillors in our wellies, organising or taking part in community clean-ups. Projects like “Leithers Don’t Litter” in my ward are excellent examples; we need more community effort alongside improved council services.

Lesley Macinnes. Picture; contributed