Merton Under Pressure To Resolve Street Waste Problems

Call for cross-party drive to tackle issues is rejected by new leader

Wimbledon litter bins
Overflowing Wimbledon litter bins on Sunday. Picture from Cllr Anthony Fairclough

Merton council is under increasing pressure to resolve on-going issues with waste issues, including missed collections, overflowing street bins and fly-tipping.

In February it issued refuse collection company Veolia with a Service Improvment Notice following on-going concerns with litter in the borough.

According to the contract the council has with Veolia, roads in need of clearing up in Merton should be attended to within 24 hours.

Veolia previously hit this target 97 per cent of the time, but in February this had dropped to just 39 per cent, according to the council.

The contract also states that "no litter bin shall be full or overflowing at any time" and that "litter bins are to be kept clean, never full or overflowing".

If a Wimbledon town centre street litter bin is reported as full, Veolia is obliged to empty it within two hours. In residential areas, the time for emptying after a full bin has been reported is six hours.

But, as Lib Dem leader Councillor Anthony Fairclough reported, while Wimbledon town centre bins had been emptied on Sunday (June 5), there were other bins a short stroll away that were left overflowing (see pictures above).

Last month Councillor Fairclough wrote an open letter to new Merton Council Leader Councillor Ross Garrod and Councillor Natasha Irons, Cabinet member covering Local Environment, Green Spaces and Climate, calling for a cross-party "Waste Summit" to tackle the on-going problems.

He said: "An all-party Waste Summit would at least be an opportunity to increase everyone’s understanding of the issues, which in turn could make a joint approach possible.


"In terms of my group’s priorities, we would highlight the below as potential workstreams. These won significant support from residents during the recent local elections: 

  • Prioritise street sweeping after collections to tackle leftover litter
  • Investigate regular pop-up “community waste collections”, where you can drop off items nearer you, instead of driving to the tip 
  • Better and active contract management and monitoring – ensuring the Council’s contractors are challenged when services fail and bins are overflowing
  • A focus on problems with collections from blocks of flats
  • Taking stronger action against flytippers and tackling ‘grot spots’."

But Councillor Garrod has since rejected the approach for a cross-party initiative, despite waste collection problems in the borough being reported since Veolia was awarded the contract in 2016. Instead he detailed the action he has taken to tackle the issue and promised to "hold Veolia to account".

He said: "Following my appointment as Leader of Merton Council and the Labour administration, I have been taking immediate action on the waste situation in Merton, working with Councillor Irons to expand on her work in this area.

"One of my first actions was to call an urgent meeting with Veolia at which I laid out in no uncertain terms the unacceptable service level in our borough."

As a result, he said, the company's Managing Director has supplied Merton with a preliminary action plan, responding to concerns raised at the meeting and within the Service Improvement Notice.

Cllr Garrod said a comprehensive version of the action plan will be finalised next week and Veolia will assign additional resource to the borough.

However Merton has also been requested by the Information Commissioner to publish the details of the Service Improvement Notice issue to Veolia by June 13.

This follows a Freedom of Information request sent in by campaigner Mark Gale on March 22. He asked for details of the notice, as well as the response from Veolia.

According to the law, Merton should have responded to the request by April 22. As there was no response, Mr Gale contacted the Information Commissioner's office.

Case officer Oliver Durrad got back to him on May 26 to say he'd been in touch with Merton Council and asked them to respond within 10 working days.

Cllr Garrod added: "Our priorities are, and always will be, those of the residents of Merton. These priorities form the foundation of the action plan with which we will now, in the immediate term, hold Veolia to account."

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June 8, 2022