Merton Waste To Get Cross-Party Scrutiny

Controversial wheelie bin scheme on the agenda

A council task group is to investigate the options for waste collection services in Merton, including controversial plans for the introduction of a £4.6 million wheelie bin scheme.

Labour-run Merton Borough Council has agreed a cross-party scrutiny panel will look into the most efficient way of collecting rubbish and recycling from residents.

It will set up a task group which will start looking at waste collection services this month and report back to the panel by the middle of the year.

Labour had pledged in its local election manifesto that every household in the borough which wants a wheelie bin should receive one.

It says the introduction of wheelie bins would reduce rubbish on the streets by half as there will be no black bags to be split by foxes, cats and dogs.

But the scheme, which has estimated capital costs of £4.6 million, has met with opposition from other parties on the council. Labour has 28 councillors, while there are 27 Tories, two Lib-Dems and three Merton Park Ward Independent Resident (MPWIR) councillors.

Conservative Councillor Debbie Shears (left), the opposition leader, said: "We welcome the fact that they are looking at all aspects of residents' rubbish, but should it be top priority?

"We think the £4.6m cost of wheelie bins could a long way towards investment in other facilities. It would also change a system that most people are happy with and we maintain that residents do not want wheelie bins".

A survey by the Merton Park Ward residents' association found of the 245 responses, 77% would not accept a wheelie bin if it was offered.

MPWIR Councillor Peter Southgate (left) said: "We believe in finding out what residents think before deciding our stance on such issues, rather than relying on political dogma. So we ran our own survey, the only party to attempt an objective measure of opinions. The bottom line is residents were opposed 3:1.

"We support the scrutiny review now being carried out under the Independent chairmanship of Councillor John Sargeant, because we want to see the factual case for and against - capital and operating costs, impact on recycling rates and evidence whether residents want it or not borough wide."

Labour Councillor Mark Betteridge, cabinet member of performance and implementation, said: "We are having to look afresh at how we can deliver services with less money available to us, while not compromising on quality.

"Everyone wants their rubbish taken away and properly dealt with, and we have to manage this in an environmentally responsible way. We believe wheeled bins would play a big part in helping to make this happen. But we also know that, now more than ever, we need to be flexible and adapt to the extremely difficult financial situation facing Merton".

January 11, 2011