Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Leeds City Council is expecting to overspend by nearly £5m on extra waste collection services this year, despite the authority admitting it is still struggling to pick up everybody’s bins.
A report which went before senior councillors confirmed that the council’s waste management department was expected to overspend by £4.896m, and the figure was picked up by Coun Andrew Carter (Cons, Calverley & Farsley) in a meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board.
The council’s head of finance Victoria Bradshaw told a meeting of the authority’s executive board that this was due to “additional waste and additional crews” that have been needed due to more people working from home and generating more rubbish.
Coun Carter responded:
“So despite the fact that a good percentage of the population are experiencing missed collections, we have overspent by £5m?
“Do we expect people to climb on the 28 bus with a sack on their back?”
A debate took place in last week’s full council meeting, when opposition members called on the authority to apologise for the high number of missed bin collections over the summer.
A statement on the authority’s own website reads:
“The refuse service is currently struggling to get enough crews out to empty all the half a million or so bins presented across Leeds each week. Hundreds of tonnes of extra waste continues to be presented by households across the city each week.
“With self isolation and crew bubble requirements still in place the amount of staff available to work can vary day to day. Unlike many councils we have not suspended our garden waste collection service, but there will be days when we can not complete all routes across the city.”
Coun Mohammed Rafique (Lab), the council’s executive member for environment, told the meeting:
“It was explained about the extra tonneage of waste that we had to collect. If we hadn’t collected all those tonneages, you wouldn’t believe the amount of rubbish that is left on our streets.
“Packaging is just one of the issues – the extra packaging generated because of parcels, as well as Covid lockdown and schools being closed.
“There is no way you can manage the service without having that extra resource. We had additional pressures in August but we have overcome them now.
“We will be doing a service review going forward to cover all that.”
On the overspend, a document which went before Leeds city councillors stated: “This includes the cost of providing additional crews and vehicles to deal with continuing increased volumes of household waste, the cost of disposing of this additional waste and the cost of providing additional staffing cover at Household Waste sites.”
Coun Carter said: “I will hold Coun Rafique to his pledge that we will see the refuse collection service recover properly.”